Danone is working to develop and promote regenerative models of agriculture that protect soils, empower farmers and promote animal welfare.
At Danone, agriculture is at the heart of what we do. We are proud to maintain close relationships with over 58,000 farmers worldwide.
But today, agriculture is at the center of a number of major challenges, from climate change, water scarcity, biodiversity loss and economic development. There is increasing consensus amongst peers, scientists, policy makers and NGOs that globally we need to embrace a different approach to farming, one that can transform agriculture from a challenge to a solution.
As a food company, Danone is determined to do our part to help overcome these challenges by adopting agricultural models that can regenerate the planet, while feeding a global population that is set to surpass 9 billion people by 2050.
In November 2017, Danone announced its intention to sharpen its focus on regenerative agriculture, which we define as an outcome-based holistic approach to farming with 3 dimensions – planet, people and animals - which when adopted under the right conditions can maximise agriculture’s benefits: protecting and improving soil health, biodiversity, water resources and climate, strengthen animal welfare and supporting farming resilience and long-term profitability.
To refine our approach, Danone worked with WWF France, field technicians, and a diverse group of environmental and agricultural experts, to create the Danone Regenerative Agriculture Scorecard, and the Danone Environmental Handbook, to define regenerative best practices and create guidance for implementation for our farmer partners. This is a fundamental step toward ensuring that we are transparent about what regenerative farming is and how it is being implemented.
Danone France is already leading the way, as it committed to source 100% of ingredients produced in the country from regenerative agriculture by 2025.
In June 2021, Danone launched the Danone Regenerative Agriculture Knowledge Center, an open source website dedicated to sharing the wealth of regenerative agriculture knowledge we have at Danone, irrespective of type of production (fresh milk, soy, almonds, oats, fruits, vegetables and cereals) with our farmers, farm advisors, field technicians and technical partners.
Available in 10 languages, the Danone Regenerative Agriculture Knowledge Center showcases agriculture projects and best practices Danone and its partners are implementing in the field, as well as thematic factsheets, case studies, web-talks and testimonials from the farmers we work hand-in-hand with every day!
A thin layer of topsoil is responsible for 95% of all the food produced for human consumption. According to the FAO, around 33 percent of the world's soil is moderately to highly degraded. By transforming agricultural practices, we can begin to reverse this situation and build healthy and resilient soil.
Healthy soil is a carbon sink, storing a vast amount of carbon withdrawn from the atmosphere by plants via photosynthesis. That is why we promote agricultural practices which enhance soil health, which improves the soils capability to sequester more carbon. These practices include limiting chemical inputs, rotating crops, reducing soil tillage, and using crop residues as compost.
Studies have also shown that healthier soils are more resistant to harsh weather conditions, meaning increased yields, reduced water loss and soil erosion. Healthy soil is also full of microorganisms*, which represent a full quarter of the world’s biodiversity. These microorganisms nourish and protect vegetal and animal biodiversity, creating healthy ecosystems that are more resilient to the stresses of climate change.
* A typical, healthy soil might contain several species of vertebrate animals, several species of earthworms, 20-30 species of mites, 50-100 species of insects, tens of species of nematodes, hundreds of species of fungi and perhaps thousands of species of bacteria and actinomycetes (FAO, Soils Portal, Facts and Figures).
Watch ‘The Soil Story’ to discover the role soil plays in combatting climate change.
Danone is working with a number of partners to help improve global understanding of how agricultural practices can help nourish and protect soil health. Since 2017, we have launched a number of ambitious projects supporting farmers in the development of regenerative agriculture practices. Whether it is through worldwide initiatives (such as COP21’s 4 for 1000), through our projects with farmers and suppliers, or collaborative partnerships with peers throughout the supply chain (e.g. Farming for Generations (F4G), One Planet Business for Biodiversity (OP2B), Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI)), we are committed doing our part to respond to this global challenge.
Empowering farmers and farm workers
We have a long close history with our farmers (smallholder farmers in particular), and we know how indispensable their work is, to the global food system and to the economy. Farmers are the lead actors in a transition to regenerative agriculture and our goal is to support them to make these shifts, and to accompany them as they pass along their craft to the next generation.
Danone recently published the Danone Social Handbook, a key resource designed to help technicians and practitioners assess farms’ level of adherence to regenerative agriculture social principles, based on Danone Social scorecard, and advise them on continuous improvement plans and best practices. It addresses farmers livelihoods and autonomy, health and safety for all, and workers labor conditions. To support changes to the agricultural system, it is essential to have an interconnected approach that includes social and environmental outcomes.
Another way we have supported our farmer partners is by developing durable relationships with farmers, often over multiple generations. These close relationships allow us to put into place long-term contracts, and a new price management system according to the evolution of production costs rather than the market. Contracts like these help guarantee farmers stable profit margins and mitigate the effects of fluctuations in the market price of goods. This also provides farmers the stability to project and invest in the future, including investing in sustainable and regenerative practices. In Europe, for instance, we have established long-term contracts with 40% of our farmers.
Danone also empowers farmers by supporting them with access to training, equipment and financing. Through projects supported by Danone Ecosystem and the Livelihoods Funds, and Farming for Generations (F4G), Danone has provided financial and technical support to over 100,000 farmers worldwide.
Testimonial from a Danone farmer partner in Algeria supported by Danone Ecosystem through the H’lib Dzair project.
Livelihoods Funds Project
In Madagascar, for instance, Danone is working with Livelihoods Fund for Family Farming to support 3,000 vanilla farms, helping farmers to be trained on sustainable practices, to improve productivity and the quality of their products, so that they can sell them at a better price. At the same time, the Livelihoods project is empowering farmers with agroforestry techniques, with the aim of converting 6,000 ha to sustainable farming.
The Livelihoods Funds project in Madagascar
Danone works closely with Danone Ecosystem. Danone Ecosystem catalyses and develops projects that advance the public interest in ecosystems where Danone operates. Since 2009, we have co-created together more than100 transformative projects that strengthen inclusion and environmental sustainability, providing organisational know-how, technical expertise and financing support.
Among the 100+ projects we have implemented with Danone Ecosystem worldwide, 54% of them focus on enhancing regenerative agriculture:
The "Les 2 Pieds Sur Terre" program, France (2017 – Today)
Danone Ecosystem joined forces with Danone France, MiiMOSA, L'Institut de l'Élevage and other relevant local actors to implement the "Les 2 Pieds Sur Terre" program. The program aims to support dairy farmers to reduce their carbon footprint, regenerate their soils and improve their farms’ profitability. By 2022, the project has conducted around 1,200 carbon footprint assessments at farm level, helping farmers to identify the right levers to achieve impacts and held 51 training sessions. Between 2016 and 2021 the program helped to achieve a 9.3% GHG emissions reduction.
The Pachamama project, France (2020 – 2022)
Danone Ecosystem co-created the Pachamama project with the NGO "Pour une Agriculture Du Vivant" and Danone subsidiary brand Blédina. The project aims to deploy regenerative agriculture among fruit, vegetable and cereal farmers in France. To do so, the project supported 32 pilot farms to test regenerative agriculture practices that respect soil health, biodiversity and water resources. A cooperative network gathering farmers, technicians and other technical partners was also created to share and disseminate lessons learned from the project and amplify knowledge. Lessons learned on flower meadows were already shared with around 280 technicians and farmers. Finally, this project highlights and specifies the economic trajectory and extra costs implied by a transition towards regenerative agriculture.
Farming for Generations
We are also working closely with dairy farmers through Farming for Generations (F4G), a global alliance* led by Danone, with the goal of promoting regenerative farming practices that have a positive impact on nature while ensuring long-term economic viability of dairy farming businesses.
In essence, F4G is working to speed up the transition towards regenerative agriculture, test innovative solutions and adapt them based on the feedback and inputs from participating farms. Since its creation in 2019, F4G worked with 30 pioneer farms across 8 different countries and proved many solutions to be viable.
In Spain, F4G worked with 4 farms which needed to optimize nutrient supply to achieve greater yield and quality, and to meet their environmental targets. In 8 months, they achieved an increase of 11% in yield, a reduction of 2.7% of their GHG emissions, all while increasing their milk production by 17%.
In Germany, F4G supported 14 farms in improving their homegrown feed management practices. We implemented new ways for cultivating, harvesting and storing roughage, based on the farms’ specific situation. Just two years after implementation, the homegrown feed’s silage protein content increased by 10% and the yearly milk production increased by 4%, on average. As a result of the project, GHG emissions also fell by 25%.
See the F4G section of the Danone Regenerative Knowledge Center for more farmers testimonials, best practices and tools developed by F4G partners and farmers.
*Led by global food industry leader Danone, Farming for Generations draws on the expertise of leaders from the whole agricultural value chain: animal health and welfare companies MSD Animal Health, Neogen and FutureCow; animal nutrition and health company DSM; crop nutrition leader Yara; crop science company Corteva Agriscience; and artificial intelligence agri-food start-up Connecterra. Netherlands-based Wageningen University and Research, renowned for its food and food production research, supports the project in a research and advisory capacity. The NGOs WWF France, a national organization in the WWF Network, and Compassion in World Farming also provide guidance to help the project reach its goals.
Promote animal welfare
At Danone, animal welfare is one of the three core pillars to our Regenerative Agriculture Strategy, as healthy animals, from pollinators to cows, all have a positive impact on farmers, consumers and the environment. Securing the health and well-being of animals is vital to ensuring a prosperous and diverse ecosystem.
Respecting animal welfare is key to responsible farming. Danone is committed to working with farmers and other partners to bolster animal welfare and achieve better conditions for all animals. Danone worked with Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), and other animal welfare experts, to develop our animal welfare framework, which is based on the internationally recognised Five Freedoms developed by the Farm Animal Welfare Council. We are working to ensure the 5 freedoms of animal welfare are present on all our farms, for all species.
Danone monitors animal welfare through our Animal Welfare Assessment and we continuously aim to improve farming conditions and transparency in our supply chains.
We regularly report our progress, click here to see our animal progress report - 2020.
We are proud that our efforts have been recognised externally. Danone has been awarded Tier 2 status (out of 6) for four consecutive years (2018–2021) by the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW).