Danone S.A.: Becoming a Mission-Driven Company (A)
Emmanuel Faber became CEO of Danone SA, the French food and beverage company, in 2014. Right from the start, he ran the company with a dual commitment to both profit and purpose (i.e., ESG objectives). In fact, in 2018, he said, "It's time to make sustainable business the only way of doing business." The case examines his leadership and efforts to make Danone a more socially and environmentally responsible company, culminating with a shareholder vote in June 2020 to adopt a new legal status recently created under French corporate law called the "entreprise mission" (EAM or mission-driven company). Shareholders overwhelmingly approved the bylaw change which allowed Danone to redefine its "raison d' tre" (corporate purpose) to include social and environmental objectives. In response, Faber said, "You have toppled the statue of Milton Friedman here today," a reference to the author of the famous article entitled "The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase Profits." As the first publicly traded company in France to adopt the new structure, all eyes were on Faber to see how he would run the company and achieve multiple corporate objectives.