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'Sustainability at Danone is based on economic, social, and health principles'

Ricardo Miguelañez. Ingeniero Agrónomo. @rmiguelanez

For more than 90 years, Danone has pursued a single objective: to take care of people, offering the best flavor and quality. In fact, the Group's responsibility doesn't end when it creates a good product. And therein lies Danone's commitment to society: a framework that reflects all of the social initiatives promoted by the company through a real, tangible commitment to people and the environment in which it operates. Wikispanishfood.com interviews Esther Sarsa, Manager of Sustainable Development at Danone Spain, who talks about the group's commitment to sustainability.

R.M.- What does sustainability mean to Danone?

Esther Sarsa.- At Grupo Danone, we have a two-pronged approach to sustainability, based on economic and social factors. For us, economic development is not possible without a social component. Accordingly, any type of initiative we launch must always consider both aspects, because it's one of our defining traits and because the group's mission is to support the health of as many people as possible, through food.

Moreover, within the group, every step of the value chain must comply with three criteria to be a sustainable company: it must care for health, the good of society, and the environment.

R.M. -How does CSR function at Grupo Danone overall?

E.S.- For the Group, CSR is the sustainable development I mentioned earlier: corporate governance, ethics, a code of business conduct that is reviewed and audited. This year, for example, we are using external auditors. And then you have Danone's commitment to society, a program which also shapes our mission and is aimed at the most disadvantaged groups. That's what people identify with CSR, but we call it social action, Danone's commitment to society.

R.M.- With regard to your products' value chain, is the situation the same in all countries?

E.S.- Yes. Every country must be audited and comply with the requirements we call the "Danone way". There are principles with which all group employees worldwide must comply. However, since there are an increasing number of challenges, some cities are more developed than others, so it depends on the country's maturity or how long the company has been operating there.

R.M.- How does this affect your milk suppliers?

E.S.- All Danone suppliers must sign and comply with a code of conduct in related to business and sustainability, in connection with society, the environment, ethics and governance.

One example of this is the "Green Census" project, under which Danone sends technicians to visit milk suppliers to analyze farm machinery and infrastructure so as to detect potential water and energy savings. They also give talks to help farmers improve the efficiency of their farms.

R.M.- How are you been compensated for these efforts?

E.S.- Direct compensation is achieving a more efficient business, usually through savings, and being environmentally responsible. At Danone, every year we reward all suppliers in general, and farmers in particular, who have performed well and have included an improvement or incorporated a novel plan of action for social or environmental sustainability. We do this with our annual "Supplier Awards".

R.M.- So, a milk producer must comply with certain minimum requirements and then work to improve further, is that right?

E.S.- Yes. We visit our farmers regularly, we audit them to see how they're doing, and then we help them improve. In fact, we have a "Farmer's Plan", through which we work with them to improve aspects related to sustainable production. The plan comprises four pillars which aim to help the farmer become more efficient and reduce energy consumption through best practices, which also help other farmers to improve each day.

The four pillars of our plan are transparency, safety, recognition and development.

R.M.- With regard to these actions, what type of budget do you allocate to being a socially responsible company?

E.S.- Sustainability is incorporated into the business in such a way that there is no CSR budget per se. For example, the Farmer's Plan is part of the plan to develop milk suppliers, so they are the ones who ultimately manage that budget within the framework of their operations. In the case of Danone ambassadors from the Ana Bella Social School for Women Empowerment, where our day-to-day commitment is to offer job opportunities, the budget is managed by the Sales Department. Essentially, we don't have a separate budget for each initiative, for the implementation of projects, etc. but, rather, the idea is to include sustainability in all business processes.

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27/10/2017