Earlier this year, the French yogurt maker’s $6 billion-plus North American subsidiary became the world’s largest B Corp, a status granted only to companies that meet a rigorous set of environmental, social, and governance standards. It was the latest of eight Danone’s subsidiaries, covering about 30% of the business, to win B Corp certification, and CEO Emmanuel Faber vows it will be far from the last: He is aiming to make his entire $28 billion enterprise a B Corp by 2030.
That will be no easy feat—B Corp standards are high, and the demanding certification process wasn’t initially developed with publicly traded giants like Danone in mind, since they challenge companies to make binding commitments to put social good on par with profit. Faber says that challenge motivates his workers: The North American unit, for example, which enhanced its policies around supplier selection and improved its methods for measuring impact, sped through the certification process in one year (Faber had anticipated it would take three). Faber points out that the journey has been good for business as well as society: The sustainability investments, for example, have reduced costs and helped Danone to negotiate friendlier borrowing rates. Overall, the company’s profits more than doubled between 2014 and 2017, to 2.45 billion euros ($2.8 billion).
To pave the way for other giants to strike the same balance—Faber reports lots of interest from CEO peers—Danone is working closely with B Lab to establish a better-fitting certification process for big public companies.
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