ACTING UPON LOCALNESS AND MENTAL HEALTH DURING THE PANDEMIC
Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted Danone’s thinking and actions on sustainability?
“During the pandemic period, localness became very important. Danone, our yoghurt brand, is the company’s flagship, and we’re very proud that it’s mainly produced in Belgium, which is indicated with a Belgian flag on the packaging. But we went one step further, by including a reference to Hoogstraten strawberries – local Belgian strawberries. We partnered up with the brand and process their surplus fruit, so leftover strawberries that could not be used anymore for other means. For us, this initiative was about partnering up to act on localness and also visualize this on-pack to make the story land with consumers. For example, Danone works with more than 90 local farmers and we show those families on the packaging, bringing their story to life to make it human, local, and recognizable.
We also experienced the importance of both mental and physical health during the pandemic, and we believe our brands can play a role there. For example, the Danio brand – for which Millennials is a key tribe – is all about ‘letting loose, let go’. The bar is high, also for students, and in the future, we are considering initiatives to support this segment with their mental well-being. But also for Activia, which is then more about the connection between gut and mental health, we feel this is a topic we potentially should discuss more. In areas where we have credibility or relevance to play with our brands, we should be open, start discussions, and support consumers where we can.”
THE B-CORP LABEL: A CATALYST FOR SUSTAINABLE GROWTH
Q: Danone has been certified by B Corp, a movement of companies that have been verified to meet the highest standards of social and environmental criteria. What does this label mean for Danone?
“For us, being a Certified B Corporation serves as a catalyzer for sustainable growth. To obtain a B-Corp certification, you must complete a B Impact Assessment (BIA) and earn an audited minimum score of 80 out of 200 possible points, and recertify every three years. So, you must prove progress on all the topics and questions included in the BIA, such as renewable energy, recyclability, etc. (in the (5) area(s) of governance, community, customers, environment, and workers). And this is where it really helps as a catalyst for growth. During meetings where we discuss innovation, for instance, we always have a one-pager in the standard deck to discuss how an innovation will impact B Corp. Just by doing that, we reflect on how we can ensure that our innovations contribute to the bigger picture such as the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
However, the awareness among consumers is very low; but I’m convinced this will change when the B-Corp community grows. Overall, there are so many labels and people don’t understand them. It seems like putting multiple labels on packaging is the new greenwashing. Some large organizations merely aim to reach the requirements for obtaining a specific label so that they can tick the box, but they are not intrinsically driven by sustainability. It’s not in their DNA, like it is for Danone. From a consumer point of view, it would make sense to have a label that is credible and transparent, and has the same certification process for every company. Whether that should be B Corp, that’s up for debate.”
In summary, Danone is actively fighting food waste, and partnerships with organizations such as Too Good To Go help the company to have a significant impact on the market. COVID-19 has increased the importance of localness and mental well-being (amongst other things), and Tine strongly believes the Danone brands have a role to play in these domains. And finally, being part of the B-Corp community acts as a catalyst for sustainable growth for the company.
Hungry for more? Stay tuned as we will release more ‘Conscious Consumption’ interviews in the coming weeks!