Kyle Poplin

A Really Big Tent: Danone trying to maximize its potential through inclusiveness

Confronting the global economic crisis in recent years, Danone came up with an ambitious new business model that includes all the stakeholders in its ecosystem: employees, customers, farmers, suppliers, subcontractors, transporters, distributors, the places where it operates.

The transformation to this inclusive model began with, and its initiatives are financed through, the Danone Ecosystem Fund, initially endowed with 100 million Euros in 2009.

Jean Christophe Laugée, social innovation and ecosystem director at Danone, works with the fund. He explains its goals:

“We are trying to maximize our socio-economic footprint through business partnerships with local economic actors, with whom usually large companies like ours are not cooperating with,” he said. “The idea is there’s a big opportunity to strengthen and develop the ecosystem of Danone by increasing the number of partners we can do business with.”

For instance, Danone – which has 80,000 employees and does business in 120 countries – is pursuing relationships with “household farmers, basically farmers of subsistence,” to see what raw materials and resources they can provide.

“Thanks to this new way of operating your business, you are strengthening the reputation of your organization. You are opening an innovative way of interacting with your consumer. You are building a network with nonprofit organizations and institutions. … From the beginning it’s co-created. It’s not instrumentalized. It’s very pragmatic, because both organizations try to align on this social and business output. But everyone has got the right to say no and both organizations are making decisions on the overall model. We’re not asking the NGO or nonprofit organization to deal with the social output and we as business guys deal with the business output. No. It’s inclusive. … We’re trying to transform our business practices for better sustainability.”

In the video below, he further elaborates on how corporations might overlook the overall business value attached to such partnerships.

business development, financial inclusion, smallholder farmers