Encounters are the heart and soul of danone.communities. On March 18, over 400 people – Danoners, students, social entrepreneurs and investors – attended an evening entitled “Ensemble, multiplions l’impact!” (“Increasing our impact, together!”). The purpose of the event was to show how the different danone.communities social businesses work with their various employees and partners. Experience and knowledge were shared, inspiring the participants to become more involved at their own level.
This commitment was hailed by Muhammad Yunus, who later reiterated his support for danone.communities in a speech he made to researchers, doctors and students at Danone’s Nutricia Research Center in Utrecht, Netherlands, on April 14. “Basically, human beings are the ones who solve problems. We are entrepreneurs. People shouldn’t be job seekers, but job creators,” said the Laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize.
THE GRAMEEN DANONE ADVENTURE
During the meeting at Assas University, Corinne Bazina, General Manager of danone.communities, was the first to look back at the creation of the social business Grameen Danone Foods in 2005. This joint venture, which arose from the meeting between Muhammad Yunus and Franck Riboud, has been decisive in the development of danone.communities, which has subsequently supported other enterprises based on the same model, with the aim of making Danone’s dual economic and social plans a reality for both the local beneficiaries and the Danoners committed to their success.
25 TIMES MORE IMPACT IN ONLY 9 YEARS!
Every day, thanks to the Shokti yogurt factory in Northern Bangladesh, the 250 Ladies of Grameen Danone Foods and 400 local milk producers ensure that more than 70,000 malnourished children receive yogurt rich in essential micronutrients. And the company has also innovated by providing biodegradable packaging made of corn starch rather than plastic. “Every multinational has this creative capacity. The technology is in their hands,” Prof. Yunus told the assembly of scientists at the Nutricia Research Center this April in Utrecht.
And danone.communities has proven this outside of Bangladesh. In Cambodia, it works with 1001 Fontaines to invest in building treatment plants for water that is then supplied to remote populations. This model has now also been rolled out in India and Madagascar, providing safe drinking water to 330,000 beneficiaries every day. In India, d.c and Naandi Community Water Service will raise the numbers who beneficiaries from 350,000 people in 300 villages to 1.5 million people in 750 villages throughout the country by 2020. In some communities, the distribution of drinking water in schools has already reduced student absenteeism by 65%, improving the lives of families and entire villages.
ENGAGING WITH D.C
danone.communities supports social businesses through an investment fund that is open to anyone. To date, more than one in three Danoners place their savings in this mutual fund, representing 20% of the total investments. This remarkable commitment has made it possible to invest in and share skill sets with nine socially-oriented local firms! In fact, the involvement of Danoners goes much further than solidarity savings: they form a real community of ambassadors built up around the danone.communities team, whose mission is to provide daily support to social enterprises.
A TOUR DE FRANCE TO MEET WITH DANONERS
After meeting the staff at Danone’s various facilities in France, the team members were delighted to find that their community is a growing one! For over a month, they introduced danone.communities to 13 different head offices and factories: on the program were Shokti tastings, exciting discussions of current projects and far-reaching recruitment. Wherever they went, the team encountered a great deal of curiosity and enthusiasm, and each person was proud to be able to increase the impact of d.c by relaying inspiring actions. And the staff were more than willing to share their expertise to help the businesses to grow, either out in the field or from their desks via regular online working sessions with the local teams. Discover the different stages of this Tour de France here: https://firstname.lastname@example.org.
WORDS FROM CONTRIBUTORS
At danone.communities, each person is free to get involved as much and however they like. This was the strong message conveyed by Danone’s entrepreneurs, contributors and researchers at Assas and in Utrecht. For example, attendees learned that danone.communities is active in France with the Programme Malin: a social business launched to help parents without secure jobs to improve their babies’ nutrition. “In our country, one in five children is born below the poverty line,” said Benjamin Cavalli, Director of the program that danone.communities supported by providing a team of Danone employees to organize it as a long-term business model. According to Valérie Mazon, who has worked with Malin for a long time and joined d.c at this year’s strategy meeting, “This is a new entrepreneurial culture, which needs to be given shape through this type of social project.”
A SOCIAL BUSINESS
As Emmanuel Faber continuously reminds us, “Charity is not a sustainable model.” If they are to continue their actions and invest in their development, social businesses have to be profitable and innovative in how they work. It is not a matter of coming in and imposing a business model: each project’s success depends on collaborating with local teams, identifying specific needs and solutions, and helping them to develop or change the scale of their undertaking. For the past 10 years, Danone’s social innovation fund has been showing that another economy is possible, because the impact these businesses have on their local communities is immense. And, as everyone can see, they also provide a memorable experience to the Danoners who join forces with them.
LET’S CHANGE THE WORLD, TOGETHER
“Let’s ask ourselves what kind of world we want to live in: that’s the objective of social businesses – and we all have solutions we can offer!” PR Yunus
“Let’s ask ourselves what kind of world we want to live in: that’s the objective of social businesses – and we all have solutions we can offer!” The wonderful Prof. Yunus had the last word, encouraging everyone to give free rein to their creativity and fight for societies with no poverty, no unemployment, no malnutrition and no carbon footprint.
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Photo ©Gwenaëlle GOELER