Organic organizations keep pressure on Danone North AmericaOrganic organizations keep pressure on Danone North America
Danone actively engaged in discussions to try to help producers impacted by change.
November 10, 2021
Eleven organic organizations representing organic farmers and consumers submitted this week a complaint to B Lab against Danone North America, describing a breach of the B Corp’s Community Core Values. They also activated a live petition to gather signatures from organic consumers and farmers in support of this complaint, which will be submitted to B Lab every two weeks as signatures grow. Two weeks ago, the group delivered petitions with 15,234 signatures asking Danone N.A., owner of Horizon Organic, not to leave the northeast and leave 89 dairy farm families without a market.
In August 2021, Danone North America notified all their contracted organic dairy farm families in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and a portion of New York they would be ending their contracts and pulling out of the Northeast U.S. market. They plan to transition all their milk procurement west in favor of larger farms. Many of the affected farm families have been providing organic milk to Horizon Organic for decades and have been instrumental in building that successful brand with grass-fed family-farm organic milk.
“Danone’s exit from the Northeast will devastate these families and the rural economies that depend on a thriving dairy industry. Danone’s actions are contrary to the social commitments they made to these farms and their communities,” said Kate Mendenhall, executive director of Organic Farmers Association. “As a B Corporation, they must be held to a higher social standard, and we call on B Lab to investigate and suspend or revoke Danone N.A.'s B Corp status until they do right by these farmers.”
The USDA has launched a task force to help these 89 farmers, and many of the eleven organic organizations are participating. However, it will take time to identify and build the infrastructure needed for a new market, and the farmers affected will incur increased on-farm costs above the stress this exit has caused.
“In Maine, we have actively been working with our state agencies and support providers, but our farmers are suffering,” said Sarah Alexander, executive director of Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association (MOFGA). “These organic dairy farmers should never have found themselves in this position. As a B Corporation, Danone N.A. made a commitment to do no harm and benefit all through their products, practices, and profits. Clearly, they have violated this B Corporation commitment.”
Regional producer groups representing the affected farmers will be meeting with Danone North America next week to ask them to stay in the Northeast and invest in the region’s organic dairy farm families who are making great contributions to the local environment and local economies by running grass-based organic dairy farms.
The organizations asking B Lab to investigate Danone North America are Northeast Organic Farmers Association of Vermont, Northeast Organic Farmers Association of New Hampshire, Northeast Organic Farmers Association of New York Inc., Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Maine Organic Milk Producers, Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Organic Farmers Association, Organic Consumers Association, Cornucopia Institute, and Real Organic Project.
Danone actively engaged in discussions
In a statement to Feedstuffs, Deanna Bratter, head of sustainable development for Danone North America, said the company is aware of the petition and has been actively engaged in ongoing discussions with B Lab, as well as a number of the groups that sponsored the petition.
“At Danone North America, we are incredibly proud of our B Corp certification. Becoming a certified B Corp and undergoing recertification which we completed in April of this year, is a data-driven accreditation and the values helped inform our decision to provide the one-year extension to the impacted producers, which also enables us to continually speak with each of the affected producers about what we can further do to support them in a way that is best for their farm over this period.”
Bratter explained that B Lab requires disclosures, which the company is providing. Based on the information made available, the company’s certification remains unchanged.
“We are actively engaged with B Lab, other B Corps in the organic community, as well as stakeholders in the organic community to reinforce our commitment to farmers across the US, including the east,” she said. “Danone North America remains deeply devoted to the B Corp movement and its mission of using business as a force for good.”
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