The 2012 Dan Awards: rewarding the best bottom-up initiatives


In Évian each year, the Dan Awards acclaim the Danone teams who have come up with the best innovative ideas, on a wide range of subjects. But the competition is mainly about sharing these best practices, and replicating them if possible.


The Dan Awards is a best practice contest that takes place every year and challenges all Danone’s Business Units and their ideas. The aim is to transmit the best ideas to the rest of the Danone group, and identify the projects that can be replicated in other contexts. In other words, the Dan Awards help build up collective know-how on a wide range of issues. This year, 238 projects were submitted by 84 business units, in eight different categories. Some of these are purely dedicated to business, while others tackle the Danone teams’ ability to address human, social and environmental challenges: these categories are entitled “For all”, “Social innovation” and “Nature”. Here we look at the three projects that made it to the top this year for these awards, and see why they were chosen.


“For all”: creating a business unit that is closer to people

The “For all” prize rewards a business unit that has found the best idea to reach more and more people, in the light of Danone’s mission: 

to bring health through food to as many people as possible.

This year’s winning team was acclaimed for creating a separate business unit in Brazil’s Nordeste, where 28% of the population lives but only 14% of the gross domestic product is achieved. Thanks to an innovative approach combining a bottom-of-the-pyramid local strategy with the development of specific products and the creation of new distribution circuits, this new business unit is now growing rapidly and has already managed to reach out to people too poor or too remote to access Danone’s products. The approach is already inspiring other countries, like Russia, where the creation of local business units is being considered.


“Social innovation”: empowering milk producers and their wives

The “Social innovation” award went to an Indonesian team for the Ciater project. Their idea is to help milk producers in the area take their activity to the next level, thanks to new tools that help them professionalise their business. Twelve demo farms are now under construction so that farmers can learn how to improve their production in terms of both quality and quantity. This is already helping to improve the milk supply chain and cattle fodder, through the spread of new farming techniques. Farmers’ wives are also empowered by the Ciater project, with entrepreneurship training and education that enables them to manufacture milk-based products and set up a business to sell them. Families can now improve their raw material, and transform it themselves into products suited to the needs and tastes of local consumers.


“Nature”: switching to a greener energy mix

Finally, the best “Nature” initiative was considered the one produced by DBN Greener Energy, in Ireland. The business unit was looking for a way to optimise the energy mix of the Baby section in the country. The main challenge was to transform an oil-powered dryer (used to dry the milk and turn it into powder) into a woodchip biomass-powered dryer – which would dramatically reduce gas emissions. In order to supply this dryer, the team turned to the local community to build up a local, sustainable wood source upstream, while also maintaining local farming activity around the plant.

The project thus created 65 jobs, increased the revenue of 400 farming families by 10%, and is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by 23,500 metric tons between 2008 and 2013.

It is also a way for the factory to be perfectly integrated into its local ecosystem, which means lower costs as well. And the ambition for the next three years is to build the first Baby Carbon Neutral factory.

These three projects provide fine proof of how innovation often comes from the field. But, fortunately, they are only the tip of the iceberg. Many other major innovative ideas from all over the world came to light through the competition, meaning a corresponding number of projects to tell you about later, here on Down to Earth. So stay tuned!