Moving toward business models of a new kind : the example of “Danone Supporting Life”

One thing is sure : the “after the crisis world” will be very different from what it was before. It may seem obvious, but if we have a closer look at what happened in the past, we have to admit many upturns consisted of the rebuilding of what used to exist as it was. This time it seems that both economy and society learned things.

• growth is not and endless spiral. Especially if you want it to be strong.

• whoever creates value for onself while destroying value for the others will be impacted by the economical consequences of his behaviors one day or the orther.

• Companies are parts of an ecosystem (customers, suppliers, employess…). If a part of this ecosystem collapses, the company will soon follow because when value is destroyed at its periphery, it destroyes its own potential markets.

• Growing by developping new markets is healthier than using financial lever to balance the fact its current markets are finite.

• People, at the same time employees, clients, and member of the society, now want to fully play their part and judge corporate behaviors according to these lessons.

All this things are worth because management and work models will be impacted by these societal facts and, in the same way, being successful in this new context will imply new internal practices. This teaches us, once again, that the current crisis is not as economic as it may seem.

This can lead to predict the advent of business models of a new kind, close to Umair Haque’s smart Growth Manifesto d’Umair Haque. But many people wonder when it will happen and how it may look like. A first example is coming from France with “Danone Supporting Life”.

Just as I was talking with some people from Danone, I heard these words “triple win”. Knowing how hard it is for many businesses to make “simple wins” these days, I asked them what it meant. In the tradition of their corporate culture and Antoine Riboud’s vision, it’s about promoting projects that have tree positive impacts :

• On the company’s environment

• On employees

• On the company itself.

Some people may think it’s an unbearable schizophrenia, but, at the end, it’s only a matter of balance and tuning as Martin Faber said a few month ago. As a matter of fact it’s because businesses were trying to go too far in only one direction and focused on only one third of this “triple goal” that we came to the sitation describe in the first lines of this post : when businesses destroy value around them they compromise their ability to survive tomorrow.

Danone founds important to tool and support this kind of projects, what lead to the “Danone Supporting Life” program. You can find a concrete example of what such a project may look like here (in french). If you can understand even a few words in French, I advise you to have a look at this interview of Jean-Christophe Laugée, who leads the program and have a look at the blog Danone just launched about its initiatives in the field of sustainable develoment, wisely named “Les pieds sur Terre” “Feets on the ground”.

This gave me many ideas. What Danone considers being a “Sustainable Development” initative, seems to be much more to me. In the line of the “Smart Growth Manifesto” and considering internal and external practices have to be aligned, it seems to me that “Danone Supporting Life” is something that should be used to define a new management model, which can apply to many things, from people management to decision making. It would mean that every decision should take into account :

• The impact on the environment of the company, which impacts its future.

• The impact on immediate performance which impacts its ability to be successful today and its health

• The impact on People which are its main wealth

Someone says “sustainable management” ? Anywat, what we are experiencing today shows us what happens when these three variables are not considered jointly.

I would not wan to put “2.0 things” everywhere but, considering corporate culture and values “there’s something social in the air”. And, if we carry on with this approach, in order to see such initiaves proliferate and bear fruits, some of Hamel’s “Moonshots would make sense.

Angel Cabrera suggest we should reinvent the way managers are trained, what makes sense if we consider the very nature of these “triple wins”. If both businesses and B-schools try to go in the same direction, maybe we can get real results. And sooner than if we wait for governments to make things change.

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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