In January 2020 Ethical Consumer searched Danone’s website, www.danone.com, for an environment report or policy.

The Sustainability section of the company’s website contained a section on the environment, and discussed the issues of climate change and green house gas emissions; deforestation; the need to support smallholder farmers and promote agricultural diversity; water consumption, limiting the use of agricultural chemicals, conservation and watershed protection; the need to create a circular economy; waste; sourcing of raw materials; efforts to reduce packaging. The company was considered to have a reasonable understanding of its key environmental impacts.

A number of environmental reduction targets were presented including:
- 100% of packaging to be recyclable, reusable or compostible by 2025 (currently 87%)
- cutting full scope greenhouse gas emissions in intensity by 50% by 2030, from a 2015 baseline

Danone provided some environmental performance data, including a breakdown of its green house gas emissions within its climate policy. However, data did not appear to be independently verified.

Overall Groupe Danone received Ethical Consumer’s middle rating for Environmental Reporting.

Reference:

Danone website (8 January 2020)

On 10 November 2016 Ethical Consumer viewed the most recent "Behind the brand" scorecard (dated April 2016), produced by Oxfam part of its GROW campaign which evaluated the world's top 10 most powerful food and beverage companies. The campaign aimed to challenge the companies to begin a "race to the top" to improve their social and environmental performance.

Danone was ranked joint ninth out of ten companies in the scorecard. Overall the company received a score of 25 out of 70 and was described by Oxfam as having made ‘some progress’ with an overall score of 36%.

The company was rated in seven areas based on information publicly available and marked out of ten for each area. According to the report Danone scored:
2/10 for its land policies - Danone scored very poorly on land. The company had not committed to zero tolerance for land grabs and didn’t require suppliers to consider how land affects lives. One bright spot was that it now recognised the principle of FPIC in its palm oil policy.

2/10 for policies on women – Danone made some improvements in the recent update with a new women’s empowerment commitment. While this is a good sign of improvements it is now important to track what that translates into as actual progress for women farmers.

3/10 for policies on farmers - While Danone is showing increased understanding of its supply chains, it does too little to address the hardships these vulnerable suppliers encounter in producing the commodities that form the basis of Danone’s business.

3/10 for policies regarding workers - A disappointing lack of information means Danone, which has signed up to international labor conventions, doesn’t actually know how many people are in its supply chains. Its recent agreement with the main union for food and agriculture workers globally is a solid step in the right direction.

6/10 for policies on climate change - Danone has notable climate commitments in their palm oil supply chain and on achieving zero deforestation across commodities. But the company has a way to go in making their targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions more ambitious and in providing support for farmers affected by climate impacts across their supply chains.

5/10 for transparency: Danone lists details about sourcing volumes and where it sources. It is the only company who discloses the soy volumes used for its dairy production. It also scores highest (together with Nestle) in disclosing its Audit procedures and results. But it has made no improvements since last year and continues to fail to provide names of suppliers.

4/10 on water: The owner of Evian and Volvic resumed reporting key information on water to the public. But big gaps in the company’s approach to water remain - including official recognition of the human right to water.

Due to the fact Danone had not received ‘good’ in any of the categories it lost half a mark in Ethical Consumer's Climate Change, Human Rights and Workers’ Rights categories.

Reference:

Behind the Brands April 2016 scorecard (19 April 2016)

Forest 500, ‘the world’s first rainforest rating agency’, is a project of the Global Canopy Programme. In 2018, it published its fourth annual rating. It ranks 350 of the biggest companies in forest-risk supply chains and the 150 biggest investors in these companies.

Tropical rainforests cover 7% of the earth, but contain 50% of global biodiversity. Their ecosystems regulate global water systems and the climate, and they directly support the livelihoods of over a billion people. The social and economic benefits of these services are estimated to be in the trillions.

Over two thirds of tropical deforestation is driven by the production of a handful of commodities including; palm oil, soya, timber, paper and pulp, beef, and leather. These commodities are in products we use every day and are present in more than 50% of the packaged products in our
supermarkets.

Companies and financial institutions have been assessed and ranked in respect to their policies addressing potential deforestation embedded in forest-risk commodity supply chains. The report stated that "the Forest 500 methodology was updated in 2018 to better distinguish between companies who have set commitments, and those that have taken the next step towards implementation. This new methodology has meant that many companies have received lower scores this year."

The Forest 500 ranking and analysis will be repeated annually until 2020, to help inform, enable and track progress towards deforestation free supply chains.

Each company was rated from 0-5, across five categories:

Danone was one of the 350 companies rated in the 2018 report.

It received an overall score of 3. Its scores in each category were as follows:
Intent and awareness 5 out of 5
Commodity policies 3 out of 5
Scope and ambition 4 out of 5
Reporting and implementation 3 out of 5
Social Considerations 2 out 5

The company had signed up to the following collective commitments:

New York Declaration on Forests signatory
Consumer Goods Forum member

It lost half a mark under Habitats and Resources.

Reference:

Forest 500 - 2018 ranking (April 2019)

In January 2020 Ethical Consumer searched for information on Danone’s use of palm oil. The company's latest (2018) ACOP was downloaded from the Roundtable on Palm Oil website, and the company's website was also searched for more information.

The company had used largely but not entirely RSPO certified palm oil in the last year. 54% of the certified palm oil was certified by the segregated method.

In a seperate document on its website the company listed all of its suppliers, and provided a detailed breakdown of the mills that it sourced from. It also provided details of various positive initiatives that it was involved in, including work with smallholders and action plans for suppliers. It said "We have put in place a traceability system allowing us to map our supply chain each year, with the support of Earthworm (formerly The Forest Trust)."

Overall Danone received Ethical Consumer's best rating for its palm oil policy.

Reference:

Ethical Consumer Lobby Group member list (7 February 2019)

In March 2015 the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) published a report called 'Fries, Face Wash, Forests:
Scoring America’s Top Brands on Their Palm Oil Commitments.' The report was an updated version of its 2014 report ‘Donuts, Deoderants, Deforestation: Scoring America’s Top Brands on Their Palm Oil Commitments.’

The report noted that palm oil production had contributed to climate change through the destruction of carbon-rich tropical forests and peatlands. It also highlighted exploitation within the industry, particularly child labour, poverty wages and dangerous working conditions, and the violation of indigenous land rights.

The report evaluated the same 30 firms across three sectors (packaged food, personal care, and fast food), scoring them on the extent of their global commitments to use palm oil that is deforestation-free, peat-free, and traceably and transparently sourced. In addition it had added a new sector, scoring the top ten largest supermarket, pharmacy, and discount companies based on their sourcing commitments for their storebrand products, bringing the total to 40 companies examined.

Companies scoring more than 60 overall were deemed to have a ‘strong commitment’, those scoring 36-59 were classed as having ‘some commitment’, those with 35 or less were described as having ‘little commitment’ and those scoring 0 were considered to have ‘no commitment’.

Danone received a score of 89.2 and was considered by UCS to have a strong commitment to sourcing palm oil sustainably. The company therefore did lose marks under Ethical Consumer marks under climate change, human rights and habitats and resources.

Reference:

Fries, Face Wash, Forests: Scoring America’s Top Brands on Their Palm Oil Commitments (March 2015)