On July 8th, the Livelihoods Fund held its annual event, which gathered the entire Livelihoods community from employees at the 10 partner companies that have invested in the Fund (Danone, Schneider Electric, Crédit Agricole S.A., Michelin, Hermès, SAP, CDC Climat, La Poste, Firmenich and Voyageurs du Monde) to project managers from the Fund’s 7 partner NGOs in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
The Livelihoods Fund was initiated by Danone in 2008, under the name of the Danone Fund for Nature, and opened up to outside investor companies in 2011. Its mission is “to support the efforts of poor rural communities in developing countries to restore their natural ecosystems, which improves their food security, increases their economic revenues, and improves their livelihoods. (…) The Livelihoods Fund is not a charity organization. We are an investment fund supported by reputable and socially-responsible private sector companies committed to reducing their environmental footprint. Our investors receive high quality carbon credits from our projects, which will sequester more than 8 million tonnes of CO2 in the next 20 years,” states the Fund’s website. Michelin is the most recent company to have invested in the fund, and prior to the July 8th event, we asked Hervé Deguine, in charge of Relations with Non Governmental and Civil Society Organisations at Michelin, what motivated the company to join the Livelihoods Fund in the first place.
How did Michelin get acquainted with the Livelihoods Fund and decide to join?
It was by chance, really: we met with Bernard Giraud, President of Livelihoods Venture, who told us about the fund. We thought that it was a very smart idea to combine social development with the creation of carbon credits because it benefits all stakeholders involved. The concept allows for the optimization of the resources of the partner companies for the benefit of the local communities it serves through a professional, sustainable and viable investment model.
Is investing in the fund part of Michelin’s CSR strategy?
For now, Michelin does not need any carbon credits because we have already offset our carbon emissions. But our needs are bound to increase in the future and we want to be ready. Also, nothing keeps us from doing extra carbon compensation whenever we can!
As for our CSR strategy, the aim of the group is to be a leader in its market segment, and thus, to be a leader in sustainability. In each of our activity sectors, we strive to do at least as well as our competitors. We were interested in Livelihoods’ approach because we were looking to discover new methodologies and ways to revive the local livelihoods in geographic areas where we operate. Michelin runs a “community involvement program” and being part of the Livelihoods Fund allows us to contribute to this program in a unique way.
The fund unites 10 investor companies: what do you think these other companies can bring to Michelin?
It will be very interesting for us to meet other innovative companies that can teach us how to do certain things differently. Joining the fund allows us to contribute to the fund’s projects, but also to contribute to other projects carried out by the other member companies. We have met several of them prior to entering the fund and this dialogue between Michelin and the other companies is important to us.
What do you hope to achieve through Michelin’s participation in the fund?
We haven’t set any deadlines and we are here for the long run. It is not a speculative investment, obviously, nor is it a communications ploy. It is a long-term commitment that is driven by our company’s values and convictions. We were seduced by the concept that underlies the fund and by the people who work at and with Livelihoods – the NGO partners, for instance. They are creative, committed, determined and realistic people. We like that there is no show-off and no bluff in their approach, and that they work closely with local people who are respected by the communities they serve. Additionally, the projects chosen by the fund are very pertinent to the local communities and it allows us to get straight to the point with the right actors to make the greatest possible impact.
Photo © Livelihoods Fund