danone.communities: a network of social businesses
Fighting poverty and malnutrition through social business
It began with a meeting between Danone CEO Franck Riboud and Muhammad Yunus, President of microlender Grameen Bank and winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.
As they shared their ideas and convictions on bringing progress to the world’s neediest people, the two men discovered that their expertise was complementary, and agreed to start a business together. Enter Grameen Danone Foods, built on an innovative idea: create a yogurt plant in Bangladesh to promote local community development. From the beginning, the business was designed to make enough money to be sustainable, but to focus primarily on social goals -- a revolutionary ambition.
By 2007, the first plant was up and running in Bangladesh, producing affordable yogurts fortified with micronutrients -- iodine, zinc, iron and vitamin A -- to counter nutritional deficiencies among Bangladeshi children.
Open to all: an innovative mutual fund to support social business
Danone went on to found danone.communities, offering a mutual fund designed to encourage social business initiatives. Managed and marketed by the Crédit Agricole group, this innovative financial tool was launched in December 2007 with a clear mandate:
- Expand Grameen Danone Foods by building additional plants in Bangladesh.
- Support social businesses consistent with Danone’s mission in other parts of the world
- Use this innovative business model to partner with local stakeholders and NGOs, combining their know-how with Danone’s.
- Expand the fund’s support community to embrace all contributors to the project, including an entirely new type of investor. With danone.communities, these new investors can commit their savings to social progress, generating a social return on their investment.
As a result, danone.communities supports Senegal’s La Laiterie du Berger and Cambodia’s 1001 Fontaines project, in addition to Grameen Danone Foods in Bangladesh.
In 2010, India and France came to extand the geography of the projects.
Learn more about Naandi Community Water Services (India)
Learn more about Isomir (France).
Learn more about the danone.communities mutual fund
Today danone.communities is launching nearly a dozen immersion trips to study the potential of new projects.
It all started in November 2005 with a meeting between Danone CEO Franck Riboud and Muhammad Yunus, President of microlender Grameen Bank and winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. Realizing that they shared the same vision of development for poor countries, the two men moved quickly to found a business that would leverage their complementary skills. Grameen Danone Foods was built on an innovative idea: set up a small yogurt plant in Bogra, Bangladesh, to promote local development and bring health to the country’s poorest people. Today, the micro-plant they envisioned is in full operation and more plants will be built on the same model throughout Bangladesh.
The Board of Directors danone.communities is composed of 12 members: personalities and pioneers in the development actors. History, personal commitment or professional background of those who motivate their involvement and contribution to the project danone.communities. Their knowledge or interest in the problems of developing countries, their experience with communities and their diverse geographical origins make this collaboration a real force for the project. All are convinced that there is now a real place in the economy to the "social business".
Following its initial success with Grameen Danone in Bangladesh, danone.communities has invested in two new social businesses: 1001 Fontaines pour Demain in Cambodia, and La Laiterie du Berger in Senegal.
The danone.communities FCPR venture-capital fund, which is wholly owned by the danone.communities mutual fund (SICAV), has acquired a 34% interest in a business set up by 1001 Fontaines pour Demain to provide safe drinking water to villagers in isolated parts of Cambodia at less than one eurocent a liter.
In Senegal, the venture-capital fund teamed up with I&P, a private investment company focusing on microfinance institutions and small to medium-size business in West Africa, to back a capital increase for Senegal’s La Laiterie du Berger and become a minority shareholder with 25%. La Laiterie du Berger's mission is to promote the production of fresh, locally collected milk, improving conditions for northern Senegal's Peul cattle herders and at the same time offering local consumers high-quality fresh dairy products that are more affordable than those made with imported milk.
Today, danone.communities is launching nearly a dozen immersion tripsto study the potential of new investment projects.
Throughout 2012, the danone.communities blog has eagerly shared the latest developments in our own projects, news from the world of social business, and the ideas that make social business so compelling.
Here are just a few of the year’s highlights as mentioned on our blog:
At the beginning of the year, Fortune Magazine named Muhammad Yunus as one of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time, alongside Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Perhaps not by coincidence, it was Bangladeshi Nazia Zebin who won the project grant in our Social Business Youngsters competition on Facebook. A 24-years-old student, Nazia is committed to promoting access to culture for everyone in Bangladesh, including rural residents. In May, she traveled to Paris for the Global Communities Meeting, where she met experts from the social business community who had come to work together and imagine the solutions and initiatives of the future.
Our midyear highlight is always June 28: Social Business Day, celebrating the people who practice social business around the world. Here in Paris, danone.communities held a conference to give them a voice and to continue our mission of raising awareness of social business.
During the 2012 edition of Global Communities Meeting in Paris, danone.communities has initiated a new meeting, before the conference with Pr. Yunus. This special meeting was called Experts Workshops Meeting.
Since its creation in 2007, danone.communities has been evolving in a partnership’s galaxy and has never walked alone. Indeed, Grameen Danone Foods Ltd, the 1rst project, originally started thanks to its partners: Grameen Bank. Without the Grameen Bank’s knowledge and expertise, Danone would have met much more difficulties to enter this new territory. Moreover, without the support of Care Bangladesh, it would have been much harder to settle up again the door-to-door sales network in 2008, after the milk crisis.
With years and with projects, the partners’ network got wider and today it gathers about 50 partners, for 10 projects. At danone.communities, we know that all these partners are experts of specific topics: micro-distribution, finance, social impact…
While designing the Global Communities Meeting 2012, the danone.communities team has decided to gather more experts in the same place to make emerge learnings and knowledge to share and spread good practices or things to avoid for a social business project.
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