For Danone, Business And Environmental Goals Are One And The Same

You may not be thinking about the environment when you’re opening your yogurt container or adding almond milk to your morning coffee. But for Danone North America, the company behind these and dozens of other dairy and specialty food products, sustainability is top of mind. “At Danone, we believe that each time we eat and drink, we can vote for the world we want,” the company’s website notes.

Just today, Danone North America announced that its Bridgeton, New Jersey facility achieved one of its zero waste goals, keeping more than 40 tons of waste out of the landfill this year alone. Danone is also a member of the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance (SFPA) a collaborationbetween Danone North America; Mars, Incorporated; Nestlé USA and Unilever United States which last month released a set of climate policy principles to accelerate and guide the development of federal climate legislation. This matters, because one of the most powerful tools that companies have to fight climate change is their political influence.

Victoria Mills, Managing Director, EDF+Business

I recently had the chance to speak with Chris Adamo, vice president of federal and industry affairs at Danone North America, to learn about what’s next for SFPA, how public policies can accelerate business goals, and his favorite places to go birdwatching near Washington, DC. Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation.

Danone has set some ambitious sustainability goals, including a goal to become carbon neutral by 2050 and they’re all tied to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Why is that?

We’re in 130 countries worldwide. We procure commodities and goods from all over the world. Our impact is global, and the risks, challenges and opportunities we see are global. It makes sense for businesses to be part of UN discussions and goals.We’re very early on in our journey to being carbon neutral by 2050, but a key interim step is to look at 2030. We’ve taken on several science-based targets to reduce our overall greenhouse gas footprint by 30% by 2030 and that includes both Scope 1, and Scope 3 emissions, which means our supply chain. When we think of our GHG footprint, we’re thinking all the way down to the farm-level. About over half of our company’s GHGs are from the farm, so to meet our ambitious targets, we have to start thinking about strategies that work with our farms and a different approach to innovate within our supply chain.That’s why we started to procure directly from our farmers. It started with one farm in Kansas and it has grown to dozens of others who are now working with us on long-term contracting. It means we can talk to farmers directly about different innovations, and implementing strategies to become more economically resilient while also meeting environmental and business goals.

How do you see climate and energy policies affecting Danone’s ability to meet its business goals?

Business goals for us also mean environmental goals. It’s one and the same. We have a “One Planet, One Health” vision that our CEO put forward a couple of years ago, so environmental goals are very much a part of our culture. Our business plan is to prove that we can be a force for good both as a business and as a corporate citizen out there with the rest of the communities that we work with.Even if Danone met all our goals for 2030 and 2050, this by itself is not enough. We need the federal government using its resources and authorities to bring us together for community action and leveraging everything we’ve got.To really help the U.S. get to where it needs to be from a global standpoint, we have to be a part of that discussion, whether it’s agriculture policy, transportation policy or a price on carbon for the energy sector. As part of our journey we’re becoming more active and looking forward to getting our company more engaged on environmental policy. However, if we don’t speak out for public policy, then we’re likely not going to get to where we need to be.

How did the idea for the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance originate, and what do you hope to achieve through it?

Over the past couple of years, we found ourselves continuing to have conversations with Mars, Nestlé and Unilever on issues such as nutrition, food labeling and sustainability. We all kept saying to each other that although we’re competitors, we have similar missions, goals and values.Part of the mission with SFPA is to have a formal entity where the four of us can meet regularly, and develop points of view and policy positions on the issues that are important to all of us. The SFPA is really an experiment in corporate advocacy and how we can work together to be more forward-looking.One of our key pushes for 2019 is a price on carbon. We just released policy principles to Congress, the administration and other stakeholders about what we believe this policy should entail. And from a company standpoint, Danone and Mars and Unilever and Nestlé, we all think that now is the time to be moving. We as companies are already moving, and we hope we can be models for those in Congress. Our job is to be talking about what policies matter to us.

Last but not least, I understand you are an outdoor enthusiast. What’s your favorite place to get back into nature near DC?

There’s great bird watching in Washington, D.C., along the green ways of the Anacostia and Potomac rivers. There’s also an amazing aquatic migration taking place on the Potomac right now, with herring and probably at least two species of shad and striped bass moving up the river. I’m also an avid fisherman, and love heading out to the Potomac at Fletcher’s Cove.

Follow Victoria on LinkedIn.

Follow EDF+Business on Twitter