On July 8, 2014, the Livelihoods Fund held its annual event in the headquarters of French bank leader Crédit Agricole S.A., one of the ten investor companies of the Fund. The theme of the evening was “Rendez-vous in the Garden,” and in spite of the intermittent rain showers, the beautiful gardens of Crédit Agricole S.A. provided a particularly nice and green setting for the event.
The annual gathering united employees from the 10 investor companies, partner institutions and project managers from the Fund’s 7 partner NGOs who implement Livelihoods’ projects out in the field. The event provided an occasion to celebrate the achievements of the Fund since its creation in 2008.
Bernard Giraud, President of Livelihoods Venture (the Fund’s advisory arm), opened the plenary session in the auditorium by conveying the sense of pride of the Livelihoods family in building, together, a “mechanism that creates a solidarity between large corporate companies and rural communities, who can seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum.” (To learn more about the Fund’s mechanism, read our article here.) Franck Riboud, CEO of Danone who was at the origin of the creation of the Fund, added:
It is very important that this venture is not just a Danone venture. The more we talk about it, the more our message that social, environmental and economic benefits can walk hand in hand is carried by renowned brands and people, the more it will be heard. We are not going to change the world, but together we might be able to stir things up.
When Bernard Giraud called all the members of the Livelihoods family to come on stage – representatives from investor companies Danone, Crédit Agricole S.A., Schneider Electric, Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations (CDC Climat), Hermès, Voyageurs du Monde, Firmenich, La Poste, SAP and Michelin; representatives from partner NGOs Océanium, Nature Environment & Wildlife Society (NEWS), the Naandi Foundation, Fundaeco, Yagasu, Climate Pal and Tiipaalga; and representatives from partner institutions The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the World Agroforestry Centre, and the French Fund for the World Environment (FFEM) – their collective power appeared to shine even more brightly.
Transforming trees into carbon credits
In 2008, Danone created the Danone Fund for Nature. In 2011, it decided to open up the Fund to other investor companies that were interested in receiving carbon credits with high environmental and social value in return for their investments. There are now 10 investor companies, and the latest to join the Fund is Michelin
Pierre-André Terrisse, Danone’s Financial Director, gave a short presentation on stage in which he explained that the Fund, which has now amassed 40 million euros, will generate carbon credits for the first time in 2014. “It is an investing model that is sustainable and virtuous, and delivers value twice: for the communities and for the companies.”
Jean-Pierre Rennaud, General Delegate at Livelihoods Venture, then explained how a planted tree is transformed into carbon credits for the investors: in selected and representative plots, specialized teams measure the circumference and height of the trees’ trunks, which allows to deduce how much carbon the trees sequestrate. The results are then audited by an independent third party, and finally they are validated by the international Verified Carbon Standard. In 2014, the 7 projects supported by the Fund are expected to generate carbon credits equivalent to 8 million tons of CO2.
A world tour of the projects
Bernard Giraud then took the audience for a world tour of the projects supported by the Livelihoods Fund in Asia, Africa and Latin America:
– In Senegal, in Casamance, with the help of the local NGO Océanium, 10,000 hectares of mangroves have been replanted (the equivalent of the total surface area of Paris!). The project will benefit 100,000 people living in 400 villages.
– In India, in the Sundarbans archipelago, with the help of the local NGO NEWS 5,500 hectares of mangroves will be replanted helping 250,000 people.
– In India, in the Araku Valley, with the help of the local NGO Naandi Foundation, an agroforestry project will plant 6,000 hectares of fruit trees. 100,000 villagers will benefit from this project which will help increase their incomes.
– In Indonesia, on the island of Sumatra, with the help of the local NGO Yagasu, 5,000 hectares of mangrove will be replanted and 20,000 people will see a direct impact on their lives thanks to new businesses that will be spurred by the products of the mangrove trees.
– In Kenya, in the Embu region, with the help of the Kenyan social business Climate Pal, 60,000 clean cook stoves will be distributed which will allow local women to cook using up to 60% less fuel wood: this will help curbing deforestation and reducing the health risks for women that are associated with cooking over open-fire stoves (lung problems, sore eyes, etc.).
– In the north of Burkina Faso, with the help of the local NGO Tiipaalga, a clean cook stove project will provide training to local women so that they will be able to make their own cook stoves. The goal of this new project – it will commence this October 2014 – is to equip 30,000 households, with a minimum of 2 stoves per household.
– In Guatemala, in the region surrounding the Mountain Cerro San Gil, with the help of the local NGO Fundaeco, a recent agroforestry project (initiated in July 2013) will plant trees producing pepper, wood, coffee and cocoa, among other cash crops, helping not only to curb deforestation, but also providing extra income to impoverished local populations.
The last part of the plenary session held in the auditorium was dedicated to exploring how investing companies can embark their employees in the Livelihoods adventure. In the beginning of the evening, Franck Riboud told the audience: “You have competencies that other people, who have faith in their projects, do not possess. Transferring competencies helps these projects gain years of their time. We need more people like you.” Frédérique Bert, Sustainable Development Manager of Evian Volvic World (EVW) at Danone, then explained how Evian’s global “Ambassadors” programme will allow its employees to support projects that will benefit local populations that live close to Livelihoods’ projects.
Pierre-Alexandre Bapst and Laetitia Mattioni from Hermès explained how they went on a field trip together to Senegal to visit Livelihoods’ project and came back motivated to share their experience and committed to “plant seeds” of awareness within their company.
“We are in this for the next 20 years, so our commitment must be based on all of our co-workers.” Hermès has already started working on a project around developing natural batik dyes derived from mangrove trees with Livelihoods’ partner NGO Yagasu in Indonesia.
To take things one step further and to allow all the participants to learn more about the 7 projects, a marketplace was set up in which each of the NGOs animated a stand. The interactive space also provided attendees the opportunity to taste, smell or touch pepper cultivated in Guatemala, mangrove honey from Senegal, coffee grown in India, and watch the process of the fabrication of cook stoves in Kenya and Burkina Faso. It was a convivial way to end an evening where everyone shared the same awe for Livelihoods’ projects, and the same enthusiasm to make them grow in the long term.
Photos © Livelihoods Fund