Future Leaders are the Activists for a Better World

If consumer goods companies are to re-imagine the business model of tomorrow, we must first understand the consumers of today.

Today millennials account for a third of total value consumption and this generation is craving change(1), a feeling driven by their awareness of global issues including water scarcity, the need for sustainable agriculture, and health crises including obesity and diabetes. Due to this awareness, millennials are re-inventing traditional consumer behaviours by favouring small grocery shops, online shopping platforms, and influencing social norms through social media channels.

Millennials are also the first generation to recognise that their values, needs and expectations are changing traditional consumer behavior. This recognition gives them a sense of responsibility. This is not a simple trend, it is a revolution because it reinvents the way we consume. In order to remain relevant and competitive, the consumer goods industry must therefore also re-invent itself.

Increasingly business leaders have recognised that advocating for social progress is core to their business interests. Interest levels in previous movements such as globalisation and standardisation have peaked, and these movements are now old hat. Today, millennials are calling for brands to play an active role in maintaining the health of consumers and the health of the planet, as demonstrated in a recent study by Prosumer(2), which found that 46% of millennials are looking for brands who are doing good in the world. Businesses who fail to respond to this growing trend are not only failing their consumers, but also missing out on an opportunity to implement new sustainable growth models.

At Danone, we have chosen to embrace the food revolution and to serve it. We believe that each time we eat and drink, we can vote for the world we want to live in. We work every day to be a catalyst of this food revolution: we aim to provide healthier choices while inspiring healthier and more sustainable eating and drinking practices.

Today the majority of successful companies aspire to promote social and environmental sustainability as well as consumer health and wellness as a key aspect of business delivery. The question remains therefore, as to how to begin re-defining the company purpose to drive long-term impact. As the co-chair of The Consumer Goods Forum’s Health & Wellness Pillar, as well as the leader of Danone’s acceleration platform Alimentation Initiative, I believe there is no tradeoff between economic success and social progress. In fact, at Danone we have now defined the Danone 2030 integrated goals as a plan to guide us through the food revolution. As part of our ambition to grow profitably as a B Corp, our manifesto brands will protect and nourish both the health of the people and the health of the planet.

However, to achieve our goals it’s clear to me that new governance models are key to progress. We need to embrace new paradigms in our organisations. For example, at Danone we have launched our One Person, One Voice, One Share programme, which enables over 100,000 employees to co-own the company agenda. A system of participative governance will lead to success in achieving our Danone 2030 goals.

I also believe in the power of collaboration. At The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), not only do we make progress in developing our industry standards, but we are also embracing a new era where we act together and join forces to achieve the most effective impact. With the right collaboration we can be a catalyst for change because the CGF offers a unique platform to create a better world together. We are creating a collective movement to empower people to live healthier lives and drive shared business value. Together we are creating something unprecedented.

Moreover, as a multi-stakeholder collaborative, The Consumer Goods Forum has the ambition to play a leadership role in the health transformation agenda, reinventing privatepublic partnerships with governments, academics and NGOs. This collaboration harnesses the full potential of business as a force for good. Businesses driving positive change in the health and wellbeing of people is now an expectation by consumers, not an exception.

With that in mind, I stand by the belief that it is our responsibility as individuals and as future industry leaders to be courageous and to instigate strategic and impactful change. Through acting as an activist for the transformation of our industry, we can champion progressive, sustainable practices and engage in meaningful business, driving change at scale.

This is also why events like the CGF’s Future Leaders Programme have a critical role to play. I am confident that the Future Leaders Programme will enable a new generation of leaders to find their voice within our industry network, allowing them to better harness the power of the collective. The Programme will serve to empower each of you to share what it means to do meaningful business. I urge you to join this collective movement through the Future Leaders Programme, taking part in our quest for the betterment of businesses, people and the planet. You are the change agents. You have the power to drive a new age for our businesses, and to build a healthier world.

(1) BETC Prosumer Study, 2016
(2) BETC Prosumer Study, 2016