Published by Camilla on 07 Jul 2010 at 08:58 am
I was invited to attend Danone’s Social Innovation Lab 2010 in Paris earlier this week (known as Dannon in the United States), following an invitation by one of the attendees of the Social Innovation BarCamp which took place a week ago in Paris.
I almost didn’t go to the Lab as I thought that it would be attended by a large bunch of ‘Danoners’ (as they call themselves) who would be espousing how social cause marketing was helping them to sell more yogurts.
However, I was surprised once I got there. It ended up being an eye-opening experience on how a multinational corporation is seriously trying to reinvent its way of doing business – in a more transparent and sustainable way. Moreover, NGOs and stakeholders are serving key roles in their sustainable objectives: by co-creating grassroots initiatives that are creating positive social or environmental change.
Making a difference
So what are some of the initiatives that Danone is involved in? I got to hear about projects such as ‘Plant your tree” supported by the Danone Fund for Nature in partnership with Dakar Oceanium, a nonprofit which has been working in this area since 2006. This project aims to plant 60 million mangroves in Senegal.
Another project aimed at restoring 6000 hectares of mangroves is also being created in conjunction with Nature Environment and Wildlife Society (NEWS), one of the largest NGOs in Eastern India.
Another NGO working with Danone is Heifer in Ukraine which is working with Danone’s Ecosytem Fund to create 20 agricultural cooperatives affecting between 60-80 smallholders in the region. Many other nonprofit organizations such as CARE, Ashoka and foundations such as NAANDI are involved with Danone’s social innovation projects.
Profits and the planet
Did this mean that there was no discussion of profit and the bottom line? Actually, quite the contrary. Danone’s chairman and CEO, Franck Riboud, proudly expresses that “Danone is driven by both the social and the economic.”
However, their financial goals are coupled with targets such as 30% reduction in carbon output by 2012 and the creation of a carbon-neutral status for its bottle brands by 2011. Social targets are incorporated into the salaries of key managers and directors.
Will this help them sell more yogurts? Maybe, but then Danone is not going to change the way it does business over night. However, this multi-national’s actions and its open approach to discussions around social innovation; what is working, what isn’t and how it could do better, are positive steps in the right direction.
Are you collaborating across sectors?
If you have stories to share on how your NGO is working with the private sector – its successes and failures, please do share them with us.
Photo by daniel.julia
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