CHICAGO: Danone North America is the largest B Corp in the world, meaning it not only has a fiduciary duty, it’s also legally bound to make the world a better place, according to CEO Mariano Lozano.
B Corp status means a corporation is a public benefit company. It must meet social and environmental standards set by B Lab, the organization that oversees the process, and is legally obligated to continue to meet those standards.
Since Danone achieved its B Corp status in 2018, the food company, known for its Dannon yogurt products, has rallied other large corporations to its cause. Danone NA is working with B Lab to encourage other large organizations to become B Corps, Lozano added. The process was initially designed for smaller companies.
"We [would be] happy to be No. 2," Lozano said. "We’re happy to be dethroned. It means the movement is getting bigger and more impactful."
Lozano said the best way to prove a corporation has purpose is by being certified by a third party, such as B Lab.
"What makes sense for the society and planet makes business sense," Lozano said.
In a consumer-centric business environment, Danone, which does $6 billion in sales annually, responded to a society demanding more from the companies they choose to do business with.
"[The consumers] are speaking loud and clear; that is what they’re expecting of companies," Lozano said. "Don’t get me wrong, we are not an NGO, so we need to make money, but we see this profit as a way to earn the freedom and independence to have a good impact in the long term."
More corporations are undertaking similar initiatives. The Business Roundtable declared this year that companies must contribute to society and not solely focus on shareholder returns. One of the priorities it advocated for was greater diversity and inclusion.
Lozano’s take on D&I is that the cannot be tackled separately. He advocates for what he calls "inclusive diversity." In order to be truly diverse, a company must have an inclusive mindset from the outset.