Danone’s journey to the Cool Farm Alliance

At the end of 2015, Danone announced a very ambitious objective: to become a Zero Net Carbon photo-wbc-smallCompany by 2050, covering full scopes including agriculture.

The challenge is huge and it starts by getting robust and reliable methods and tools to monitor the progress of the greenhouse gas footprints of the agricultural raw materials we source, mainly raw milk.

Even though since 2008 Danone has developed and used an internal tool to assess milk GHG emissions, in collaboration with Idele, the French Livestock Institute, it was obvious that the methodology as well as the available tools in the market have evolved and that it was time to re-consider our approach. For this reason we mandated independent advisors to set up an exhaustive benchmark of existing tools, and to recommend which one would best fit Danone’s needs.

Beyond the mandatory criteria to be aligned with the state of the art methodologies, we were looking for a tool that could be used in all of the different countries where Danone is sourcing raw materials. This means adapted to big farms as well as small holders, different contexts of cow yields, feed production, climate, type of soils etc… Online accessibiity, user friendliness and relevance from a farmer’s point of view were also key criteria to select the tool.

The Cool Farm Tool has been finally selected as the best fit to these different criteria. But probably equally important was the open governance of the Cool Farm Alliance that allows different food companies and research departments from universities like Aberdeen or Wageningen to work together, and to steer the future developments of the tool by integrating the most up to date international scientific knowledge with the operational needs of the companies.

This is the reason why we decided to become members of Cool Farm Alliance and to actively contribute to the development of the future dairy module of the Cool Farm Tool by facilitating the alignment between experts and being sure that we incorporate the best knowledge on milk GHGs. For a global food company like Danone, it is crucial that the way we assess the environmental impact of our agricultural raw materials is coherent from one country to another, and that step by step we ensure that existing tools are converging to the same methodology and similar assessments. We think that Cool Farm Alliance is a fantastic opportunity for that.

Beyond the Tool itself, we should also be conscious that many questions are still to be solved regarding its implementation: how to use it to monitor the GHG emissions of milk at a worldwide scale ? How can we define a robust sampling methodology of our farms to get a reliable assessment at the regional level, without assessing all of the farms? How can we align the objective of using the Tool to monitor GHG emissions at the global level whilst also making it absolutely relevant at the individual farm level to help each farmer to find the right mitigation strategies? How can we use the most accurate emission factors when the farmer him/herself doesn’t always know where the feed components are coming from? We value that all of these questions of operational implementation can be discussed among Alliance members because we are all facing similar challenges, and together we can probably find the best solutions.

Finally, although the GHG module is our first interest, it is obvious that the CFT could also become our reference tool for other farm sustainability indicators like water and biodiversity, even if today those metrics are still in earlier stages of development.

We hope that many other dairy companies will join the Alliance and will contribute to the development and the implementation of the Tool. The more of us there will be, the more chance we have to be aligned and to be robust in monitoring our plans. After all, we all know that we cannot improve what we cannot measure!”

By Didier Moreau, Nature & Cycles Sustainability Director at Danone