“The primary driver [to becoming B Corp Certified] is because we think it is the right thing to do. Our business is inextricably linked to a healthy environment and so this is about planetary health and also business health,” Michael Neuwirth, senior director, external communication, Danone North America, told FoodNavigator-USA.
He explained that the decision to become B Corp Certified last April is rooted in the history of Danone and the company’s CEO who, in 1972, expressed a strong belief that Danone’s commitment to the community does not end at the factory gate, but rather extends well beyond.
“It is really rooted in the ethos of Danone to balance the priorities of economics, sustainability, community and the environment,” he said.
An enhanced tracking and RFP process
And so, in its first year as a Certified B Corp, Danone North America pushed to ensure its supply chain was sustainable by introducing new tracking systems and an RFP process for suppliers to determine their sustainability impact, Catherine Queen, manager of sustainable development at Danone North America, told FoodNavigator-USA.
“Since the beginning we have really worked to ensure our suppliers all are meeting the high standards of the B Corp mission, and our new tracking system as well as an RFP process for suppliers really helps us – also them because it is a shared value – to turn in what their sustainability impact is,” she explained.
“Some of them have even expressed interested in becoming B Corp Certified which is awesome – we always get really excited when they have those phone calls with us. But even if they are not looking for certification, many really want to know more about the mission and values,” she said.
To that end, the company invited one of the founders of B Corp to speak directly to its farmers at an annual event it hosts, and “the response was really transformational and there is already interest form our other farmer partners in obtaining certification as well,” Queen said.
More sustainable packaging
Danone North America also has made significant changes in its approach to sustainability by shifting its approach to packaging from linear to circular, Queen said.
“We have global commitments… for 100% of our packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 … and in the US we actually already have 75% of our packaging being recyclable,” Queen said, adding that this possible in part because the B Corp certification helped Danone North America ‘prioritize’ sustainable packaging.
The company also is helping to educate consumers about how to better recycle and to take the responsibility to recycle seriously, Queen said. In addition, she notes, the company is focused on supporting the advancement of recycling technology.
Danone revises leave to give employees more flexibility
While Danone North America is committed through its B Corp certification to improving the lives of the broader community, it is focusing first at home – by expanding its leave policy for employees.
The new flexible time-off policy allows employees to take whatever time off they want when they need it provided they get their work completed and clear it with their manager in advance. In addition, the company’s new central leave policy allows for 26 weeks of fully paid leave for covered employees who are primary care givers, including those who adopt.
“They can now take the time they need and that is directly related to our commitment with our B Corp Certification to build a healthier world in a genuine way,” Queen said.
Education is key to a bigger impact tomorrow
Danone North America also is focused on educating consumers – and competitors – about the value of becoming a B Corp Certified business in the hopes that other companies will follow its lead and consumers will more easily be able to identify and support companies with which they share values.
“Right now the awareness level of the B Corp logo is very low, but this is just the beginning and we are doing a couple of things to work on education,” Neuwirth said.
For example, he said, the company uses the B Corp logo on roughly 200 products currently and in some cases, such as on select Horizon Organic products, it also dedicates package space to explain what a B Corp is.
He added: “That is part of our commitment to help educate and drive awareness … because we believe it is a good system that deserves better awareness.”
Through Danone Institute North America’s new One Planet. One Health Initiative., the company also is helping to fund community-based and academic-driven projects in the US and Canada that will enhance sustainable food systems.
In the program’s first year it will award $90,000 to four teams to implement their projects and spread the word to a broader audience. This money can be used as seed funding for pilot studies, feasibility testing, needs assessments and planning grants.
The program is accepting applications through June 1. Learn more HERE.