In Down to Earth, we have already addressed the issues of sustainable agriculture several times (here, here and here for instance). This only normal when a company like Danone depends a great deal on agriculture, and thus on the farmers it works with. Because of the very nature of agriculture (an exploitation of the Earth’s resources), depending on it means depending on its stability and sustainability. In other words, agriculture needs to survive because there is no feeding the world – and the 9 billion people who will inhabit it by 2050 – without it; and if it wants to survive, it has to guarantee its own existence in the long-term by being as sustainable as possible.
Large agrofood companies have a critical role to play in helping farmers change over to more enduring ways, because they are very large purchasers and have an economical influence on their suppliers that gives them both power and responsibility. Danone has been committed to sustainable agriculture for several years now, notably by jointly creating the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative a little over 10 years ago, and joining Farre 12 years ago. This month, the Danone Ecosystem Fund gives us another opportunity to talk about this challenge by dedicating its newsletter to sustainable agriculture, with the tagline: “Fostering the transition toward the agricultural models of tomorrow”. Because really new ways are just waiting to be invented, and they will be found through co-creation.
Co-building sustainability on a variety of areas
The agrifood business is a key local player in many rural regions, where it actively contributes to economic development and job creation. It can also play an important part in securing its resources by joining forces with local players, like Apieme. and the Evian spring. And because it has close links with its producers, it is often in a good position to work with them on driving change. As Danone Ecosystem Fund General Manager Philippe Bassin writes in the Fund’s newsletter:
Sustainable food production is strategic for Danone. As we are aware of our impact and the stakes of shared development with our farmers, we have promised agricultural players that we will promote sustainable, competitive agricultural practices.
To achieve that, he says, the only way is to seal a “pact between the food industry, territories and farmers”. The newsletter is not a long read, and you will learn what tools Ecosystem uses with Danone’s producers to ensure that sustainable practices are firmly established: adapting to local contexts (social, economical and environmental issues); developing education and exchanges between farmers (the Fund provides training and helps the farmers meet to share their experiences), and empowering farmers to become changemakers within their territory by giving them methodologies that encompass the social, environmental and economical aspect of their activity.
All in all, using these tools, the Fund’s various projects focus a great deal on co-creation and collaboration, because they know that
to change existing practices effectively, farmers must be convinced of the benefits for not only the environment and society, but also for themselves,
says Jérôme Pavie, Reine Mathilde Project Manager at the Institut de l’élevage (French Livestock Institute). The fact that benefits are not one-sided is in fact a real asset for success. As Philippe Bassin puts it: “This is not just a way to protect the environment, but a complete approach covering four aspects: economic, social, environmental, and the nutritional quality of our agricultural ingredients.” The Ecosystem Fund’s projects thus build comprehensive strategies around sustainability, and work as labs for the Group’s approach to this issue: one absolutely crucial for the future.
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