Social Business and Microeconomic Opportunities for Youth Conference: A Personal Reflection (Pt 2)

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March 21, 2008

For me, the truly life-changing contributor to the conference came in the person of Emmanuel Faber, co-Chief Operating Officer of Groupe Danone, a French-based multi-national corporation that produces many food and beverage products, such as Evian water, Dannon Yoghurt, and Lu cookies, to name a few of their many brands. Danone is one of the top 100 largest corporations in the world, with 100,000 employees in 40 countries.

About two years ago, Danone entered into a partnership with the Grameen Bank to form the Grameen Danone Foods company. The company has created a new form of small-scale factory in a village in Bangladesh, set up a process for buying milk and hiring all staff on the local market, and designed a new highly fortified yoghurt product aimed at providing 30% of the daily nutrition requirements of impoverished Bangladeshi children. The new company also implemented an innovative marketing strategy using Grameen borrowers as the sales force. Another breakthrough was the establishment of a new financing company in France called the Danone Communities Fund to attract investment capital through the French stock market for this project and other Social Business projects.

Emmanuel Faber is the man who organized the international project to design, build, and finance the Grameen Danone factory, as well as to design and develop its tasty and nutritious yoghurt product. He also personally designed and achieved rapid regulatory approval for the Danone Communities Fund financing vehicle.

In spite of his status as a Captain of Industry, Emmanuel Faber presented himself as a dynamic yet humble man, who spoke to us about concern for the environment, for the people of his company and for the people of the world. He spoke about "spirit" and the importance of "being in addition to doing". He spoke about the essential necessity to be in alignment with the dreams and aspirations of his far-flung staff, as well as to build relationships with the Non-Governmental Organizations operating in the company's target markets. Two months ago, he introduced a policy calling for 50% of the annual bonus for his 10,000 managers to be based on achievement of social objectives. He spoke about the need for openness, transparency, partnerships, and the free sharing of information. He turned the idea of "copyright", which means that you cannot copy the material, into "copy left" which means that the material is freely available to be shared as widely as possible.

Emmanuel Faber shared that the future of corporations depends on how well they contribute to making the world a better place and are viewed as contributing members of the global community.

So, for me, Emmanuel Faber was the life-changing contributor to the conference. I feel, no, I know, that if even a small percentage of the leaders of the corporate giants of the world would come to share the passion, commitment, and spirit of Emmanuel Faber, it would change the world.

Many people and organizations stated commitments at the end of the conference to go back to their home bases and to move forward with social businesses in many parts of the world.

The microcredit movement continues to grow, and now we have seen the birth of a social business movement to harness the engine of capitalism for the end of hunger and poverty on our planet.

It was a joy and a privilege for all who participated in this event to be part of this auspicious birth of a movement.

Bob Sample, Colorado State Coordinator, RESULTS

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