Danone Leading the Way with Whitewave
At the Station F debate, representatives from Schneider Electric, Danone, Decathlon, the MAIF and other top French companies insisted on their companies’ engagement towards mission-led policies. Decathlon founder Michel Leclercq shared a story of an emotional meeting with a cashier in the chain store’s Shenzhen branch that reflected the key concept behind mission-led enterprises, “generosity” which, he said, “freed up creativity”. Many other CEOs have already instigated mission-led measures, following the lead of the CAMIF and Nutriset which have formalized their statutory engagement since November 2017. The former is run by HEC graduate Emery Jacquillat (H93) who has galvanized his company ever since taking the helm in 2009, largely thanks to his devotion to a positive impact model.
Other companies, like Danone, have found themselves at the very forefront of mission-led industry thanks to its purchase of WhiteWave a year ago. The organic-foods producer already had acquired the status of world number one Public Benefit Corporation (PBC). “The purchase meant Danone inherited this position,” explains Geneviève Ferone Creuzet, “and they are now incubating it for their other subsidiaries, with all the obligations linked to this status. This convergence between the US and France is inspiring!”
“Suicide or Mission-led Economies: Make Your Choice”
According to Rodolphe Durand, clients are prepared to pay more if it means a greater societal and environmental commitment from industry. “Our studies show they accept to finance the extra cost, something between 2 and 6%,” he told the audience. Later he insisted on the advantages for enterprises guided mission-led objectives: “These companies complement the range of possible statuses, fitting snugly between pure profit and social and solidarity economies.” (ed., what the French call “entreprises sociales et solidaires (ESS),” a term which doesn’t appear to be coined in English legislation.)
Geneviève Ferone Creuzet is adamant the time has come for the notion of “entreprise à mission” to be accepted by French business. “You have to be mad or completely cynical to not see that we are at the end of a cycle,” she said after the three hour debate. “We are at an extremely precarious moment in time where we have a choice between suicide and the invention of something new guided by mission-led economies. And we are convinced that the financiers are aware of the risks they would be taking by staying in the old world. I’m optimistic they’ve heard our call.”