In January 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed Danone’s position statement on GMOs, dated August 2014, available to download from the company’s website www.danone.com. The company stated:

“In the European Union, a consensus has been reached and translated into regulation, putting a very low limit above which GMO ingredients must be declared, enabling consumer choice. As we made it possible through our ambition to diversify our sourcing practices, we have chosen to fulfill the spirit of this regulation and to use only direct ingredients of conventional (Non-GMO) origin: in Europe, Danone requires its suppliers to certify that they respect this conventional traceability and guarantees the non GMO origin of the ingredients used. As a result none of our products carry a GMO label."

"In the USA, where much of the agricultural supply of our industry relies on a limited number of species, mostly GMOs, we are striving for more diversified approach for both ingredients and for cow feed so that key issues like farmers’ independence, biodiversity, soil preservation and carbon sequestration, water usage and fossil energy efficiency may potentially be better addressed in the long term. The Dannon company, Inc. (“Dannon”) in the USA has decided to declare on labels the presence of GMO ingredients in its products by December 2017. Additionally, Dannon will evolve all products from the 3 flagship brands Dannon, Oikos and Danimals towards the use of fewer ingredients that are all more natural and non-GMO, starting July 2016. As most of the cattle feed in the USA is genetically modified today, and since Dannon’s direct sourcing enables cooperation with farmers on experimenting and innovating in the upstream supply chain, Dannon is working with cow feed suppliers and its farmer partners to start planting non-GMO feed commodities as soon as possible to fulfill its needs. Once those alternative solutions are implemented, the products from the three brand families will contain milk from cows entirely fed with non-GMO feed no later than the end of 2018.”

As the company’s products used milk derived from cows fed on GM animal feed the company lost a mark under the Controversial Technologies category.

Reference:

Danone position statement on GMOs (8 January 2020)

Alpro's website was viewed in January 2020. The following statement was found in the FAQ section:
"Does Alpro contain genetically modified ingredients (GM)?
No, we do not use any genetically modified ingredients in our products. We can fully guarantee that our soya beans are free from any genetic manipulation. This would go against the core values of Alpro. Alpro developed a specific monitoring system with the specialized Cert-ID Company. This is a worldwide renowned company that specializes in monitoring any possible genetic modification of crops and gives out GMO-free certificates. We are able to trace back any soya bean from the farm, through the production process, to the shop. Additionally, we have a close relationship with our suppliers and we pay a premium price on soybeans that aren’t genetically modified."

This was viewed as a positive policy by Ethical Consumer.

Reference:

Alpro website (12 January 2020)

In January 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed the Groupe Danone profile on the Open Secret’s website, www.opensecrets.org.

In the 2018 US election cycle, Groupe Danone's employees and their families gave $41,469 to US democratic political candidates. In the 2020 cycle they had given $29,975 to US political candidates, with 98% going to democrats.

It had also spent $360,000 on lobbying.

Reference:

Open Secrets generic ref 2019 (2 January 2019)

According to the Ethical Consumer lobby group members list, updated in February 2019, Danone was a member of the International Dairy Food Association and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. These were regarded by Ethical Consumer as international corporate lobby groups which exerted undue corporate influence on policy-makers in favour of market solutions that were potentially detrimental to the environment and human rights.

Reference:

Ethical Consumer Lobby Group member list (7 February 2019)

In January 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed the Groupe Danone’s website for information on what the company paid its senior staff.

In 2018 Emmanuel Faber had received €1,050,000 in vairable compensation and €1,000,000 in fixed compensation. Ethical Consumer deemed amounts above £1million to be excessive. The company was thus marked down in the anti-social finance category.

Reference:

Danone website (8 January 2020)

In January 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed Groupe Danone's family tree on the corporate information website, www.hoovers.com. The company had a number of subsidiaries in jurisdictions considered tax havens by Ethical Consumer at the time of writing: the Netherlands, Ireland, Singapore and Luxembourg.

These included companies that were felt to be at high risk of being used for tax avoidance purposes due to the company type, including a holding company in Singapore and a finance company and holding company in the Netherlands.

Ethical Consumer also viewed Danone's website which included a tax policy which stated, amongst other things: "In 2017, the worldwide consolidated amount of corporate taxes accounted by Danone amounted to 842 million euros. This represented an Effective Tax Rate of 25.5% in 2017 (as compared to 30.6% in 2016). Danone is committed to manage its tax policy in a responsible and transparent way...In relation to cross-border transactions, Danone applies the OECD standard and ensures that the transfer pricing policies implemented within the Company respect the “arm’s length principle”"

While Ethical Consumer was pleased to see a tax policy from Danone, without proper country by country reporting it was impossible to see where in the world taxes were being paid. The Arms Length principle was discredited due to the exitence of a lot of things that it is impossible to put clear prices on, like intellectual property.

Overall as Danone had more than two high risk company types in countries deemed to be tax havens at the time of writing, and no proper country-by-country tax reporting, the company received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for likely use of tax avoidance.

Reference:

Generic Hoovers ref (2020)