CHAPTER 19EMMANUEL FABER

ON SOCIAL PURPOSE AND THE BOTTOM OF THE PYRAMID

Danone is a French multinational food conglomerate. In America, its products are branded Dannon. They sell yogurts and mineral waters, as well as products for infant and medical nutrition. Its sales reached €24.7 billion in 2017 and its market capitalization was €42.1 billion at the end of 2018.

Antoine Riboud was chairman and CEO of the company from 1965 to 1996, and left his mark on the business world with his avant-garde thinking, in particular in terms of environmental and social affairs. In France, he remains one of the most charismatic bosses of his time.

In 1972, the remarkable speech he gave in Marseilles was a milestone in his career. Fifteen years before Norway’s former prime minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland, who was at the time President of the UN World Commission on Environment and Development, laid the foundations of sustainable development, Riboud had been promoting the idea inside his company. In the early 1970s, he insisted on including societal concerns in corporate strategies. He launched the “double project,”1 with both a social and economic dimension that is still felt in the heart of the company. His heritage is, above all, illustrated through its social breadth.

Since then, semantics have evolved. Corporate language has changed, but today’s ideas have been around for some time. It was inconceivable for Riboud that progress should leave behind workers who, in his own words, “were numerous ...

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