As an agro-business company, Danone faces agricultural, environmental, nutritional and social challenges that are intrinsic to its activities. Working to improve its impact in these fields thus needs to be at the core of its approach, both globally and locally. In Poland, just as in the other countries where Danone operates, initiatives are thus developing to integrate environmental, social and nutritional issues into the business.
And these actions are starting to pay off – as witness Danone Poland’s recent Forbes “Leader in Sustainable Development” award for its Danone Sustainable Agriculture Programme.
A sustainability award for the Sustainable Agriculture Programme
The programme supports a comprehensive vision of the milk supply chain in Poland. With the upcoming liberalisation of the milk market in the European Union (set for 2015), both milk producers and their customers need to get ready to face the fluctuations of offer and demand that will certainly occur. To prepare for the event and guarantee some stability to its supply chain and its 350 suppliers (who overall own 20,000 cows), Danone Poland has put together the Danone Sustainable Agriculture Programme. The aims are to help develop and stabilise dairy farms; to secure the supply in high quality milk (i.e. work on the cows’ health and well-being); to improve the quality of life of farmers and their families, and to reduce the negative environmental impact of agricultural production. This is achieved notably through technical advice to the partners to help them improve the quality of life of their cows, and hence the quality of the milk.
The issue is absolutely crucial for Danone: the quality of its products (and subsequently the credibility of its brands) strongly depends on a reliable supply of healthy, safe, high quality raw materials. Which is why the Sustainable Agriculture Programme is not an independent initiative: it is part of Danone Poland’s whole strategy for the years 2012 to 2016, and one of the pillars of the Sustainable Development Plan devised by the business unit. Sustainable Agriculture thus lies at the core of the strategic choices made by the Group in Poland. Poland is in fact one of Danone’s pilot countries for the implementation of the RISE tool (the Response-Inducing Sustainability Evaluation), a method that “serves the holistic assessment of the sustainability of agricultural production at the level of the individual farm,” developed by the University of Bern (Switzerland) and adopted by the Group. (You can learn more about RISE here.)
The Forbes award provides important confirmation that the approach behind the Danone Sustainable Agriculture Programme is right on track. Feedback from farmers also helps evaluate its success.
Their relationship with Danone has been impacted positively: 91% plan to continue to supply Danone, 96% have a good opinion of their collaboration and 91% trust the company and consider the specialists working in the field to be trustworthy. 77% are satisfied with the technical advice they received. In terms of quality, 99% of the milk purchased in Poland now exceeds quality standards.
Children, advocates of animal welfare
Good milk depends on animal welfare: to communicate and educate around this simple yet crucial idea, Danone Poland has sought to involve farmers’ children. Children can be powerful, efficient advocates for actions that engage their own future, their health and the state of the environment. As Jeremy Rifkin stated at the Planet Workshops last year, children all over the world are starting to develop this consciousness, asking their parents where what they consume comes from and how it affects the environment. “These kids are learning about ecological footprints!” With this next generation lies the hope that environmental friendliness will finally be seen as a must, and as absolutely obvious. With this idea in mind, Danone Poland organised a drawing competition on the theme “How my family and I take care of our cows.” The children and their parents were thus able to share ideas and best practices, and make animal well-being an enjoyable commitment.
Informing children and families about the importance of water
Where health is concerned, children are often strong allies of nutritional messages, which they spread among their friends and family – this idea actually nourishes the nutrition workshops and games the Danone Nations Cup participants play each year. As we explained a few months ago, Poland is currently facing worrying trends in child health: child obesity is rising and weight-related health problems tend to appear much earlier than they used to. This can notably be linked to the fact that Poland consumes an average of 91 litres of water per person per year: this is 28% below the Western European average. Only 13% of the fluid intake of children aged 3 to 15 was plain water in 2009, which led Danone’s water brand Zywiec Zdroj to launch a campaign called “Mum, Dad, I prefer water!”
It was developed in collaboration with the main Polish health and educational institutions – the Ministry of Health, the Food & Nourishment Institute, the Mother & Child Institute and the Ministry of Education.
The programme consists of “educational materials dedicated to children, parents and teachers” and communication targeting the general public. In schools, lessons were taught to highlight the importance of water as part of a healthy diet, backed up with specific materials designed by nutrition experts.
Between 2009 and 2011, around 570,000 children in 4,400 educational institutions took part. And over the course of these three years, the proportion of water (bottled and tap) in 3 to 15-year-olds’ daily fluid intake rose significantly, from 13% to 22%. The response to the programme was also globally positive, with 92% of parents rating it as interesting and important, and the teachers expressing their satisfaction.
Our world faces tremendous challenges if it wants to survive and provide a happy, healthy life to future generations and the other species that inhabit our planet. By putting social, environmental and nutritional challenges at the heart of its activities, Danone Poland reflects how corporate companies try to find solutions and make a difference. The business unit’s recent award crowns these efforts, and encourages everyone to go further still!
Photo from: © Marta Jaskólska – Konkurs dla dzieci 2013