Ana Bella Estevez at EVE 2012, Iman Bibars at EVE 2013… One works along with her Foundation, on restoring confidence to female victims of domestic violence by offering them rewarding professional opportunities. The other chairs an organization to fight against poverty, providing microloans and legal aid to underprivileged women in the developing world.
Both made dramatic waves throughout the assembly when they spoke at the plenary session in Evian.
Both were discovered by the organizers of the EVE Program through the Danone Ecosystem Fund.
Franck Riboud: “It is in a company’s own interest to take care of its economic and social environment.”
But what is the mission of this Fund? The answer is clearly given by Franck Riboud, Chairman of Danone on its internet site: “No organization develops in impoverished surroundings or in a desert. It is in a company’s own interest to take care of its economic and social environment, in a word of its ecosystem.”
There you have it, the true vocation of the Danone Ecosystem Fund: to consider, through a responsible company approach, that “all participants in the value chain: suppliers, breeders, distributors and even recyclers are players within a strong interdependence with Danone” and “become aware of our impact on these populations and on our environment”, explains Anne-Laure Prévost, Communication & Learning Manager at Danone.
Strengthen trust, the spirit of partnership and goodwill from everyone within the framework of sustainable economic exchanges
Then, in 2009, when Danone decided to equip itself with a fund for financing general interest projects totaling 100 million euros, the goal was to strengthen trust, the spirit of partnership and goodwill from everyone within the framework of sustainable economic exchanges.
It also meant “generating innovation by including the various points of view brought by other economic players into company reasoning, but also through the world of charities, NGOs, the social entrepreneurship sphere, etc.” adds Anne-Laure Prévost.
The Fund also finds it particularly important to extend the actions of Danone that support empowerment among women beyond the borders of the group.
Spain : the Social School for Women Empowerment, to offer attractive professional opportunities for women who have escaped violence
Examples? There is of course the partnership with the Ana Bella Estevez Foundation which led to the co-creation of the Social School for Women Empowerment with Danone Spain.
This applied training scheme offers women who have survived violence the chance to access real professional opportunities in the commercial industry, to develop “self-confidence in those who have lost all confidence and who reapply their professional potential through work, sociability and their future prospects after having experienced the depths of despair.”
Indonesia : The Merapi Project, to revive farming in a devastated area by channeling female energy
Merapi is the name of a volcano which began erupting in November 2010, creating 350 victims, hundreds of wounded, huge population displacement and disastrous upheaval in the local farming activity.
As part of the Fund’s work, Sari Husada, from the infant nutrition Danone subsidiary in Indonesia, in partnership with the Temali Foundation, supports mutual assistance groups who work on reviving farming activity in the disaster zone. Among these groups, one is made up entirely of women who work together on developing a breeding business and a pilot experiment involving packaging small amounts of fresh milk.
These women expressed a major concern: having their own source of income in order to be independent and send their children to school. Anne-Laure has become their spokesperson: “By saying: ‘our children will be educated and will have seen their mother going out to work’, these women know that beyond merely feeding their family, their courage is useful to society as a whole, and they can shift established attitudes.”
A project such as this one is very emblematic of the Danone Ecosystem Fund approach. The Fund strives to carry out actions with a short-, medium- and long-term impact, actions on every scale that improve people’s lives and the lives of those around them, as well as benefiting companies.
Brazil : Kiteiras, to encourage entrepreneurship by women in a very underprivileged area of Brazil
Another example? Anne-Laure speaks with enthusiasm about the Kiteiras project.
We are transported to Java in northeast Brazil, a very underprivileged area where accessibility of Danone products is a major challenge for the Group.
The Fund there supports the creation of a direct sales channel run by a local sales force, with representatives from the poorest districts: “Single mothers are some of the trained people who receive guidance not only in sales techniques but also in skills for life to help them with their self-development.”
It is also a project that targets the autonomy of people needing assistance, where the most qualified and business-minded women act as “mentors” for other women and instil the spirit of entrepreneurship into the whole community.
The Danone group gets back as much as it gives to these ever more innovative projects
But the spirit of the Fund is not based on charity. It works with respect for the ability of each person to put their talents to use and to take part in the overall creation of shared wealth. It is also through the exchange and sharing of innovative practices: “all these inspiring initiatives can also be seen as a form of decentralization, a sort of R & D on defined businesses models, each one on its own scale.”
The Danone group gets back as much as it gives to these ever more innovative projects: creativity, innovation, challenges to company processes, etc.
“The actions of the Danone Ecosystem Fund blend naturally with the test & learn culture that Danone holds dear”, concludes Anne-Laure Prévost.
To be continued…
Marie Donzel, with Marisa Guevara
All our thanks go to Anne-Laure Prévost, Learning & Communication Manager at Danone, who took the time to answer our questions about the Danone Ecosystem Fund and to tell us about the wonderful adventures that have been experienced during some of the projects that it supports.