Serving Up a Healthy Diet of Impact and Purpose with Melanie Chow Li of Danone

July 2, 2024

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As Vice President of Mission and Sustainability at Danone North America, Melanie Chow Li helps to advance Danone’s nature, health, and communities goals, as well as the company’s mission to bring health through food to as many people. Melanie’s primary focus at Danone is to deliver the region’s impact strategy and roadmap, such as implementing cross-functional action plans for SBTi 1.5C by 2030 and driving the intersection of business and purpose by being a B Corporation.

John Shegerian: Do you have a suggestion for a rock star Impact podcast guest? Go to and just click “be a guest” to recommend someone today. This edition of the Impact podcast is brought to you by ERI. ERI has a mission to protect people, the planet, and your privacy, and is the largest fully integrated IT and electronics asset disposition provider and cybersecurity focused hardware destruction company in the United States and maybe even the world. For more information on how ERI can help your business properly dispose of outdated electronic hardware devices, please visit This episode of the Impact podcast is brought to you by Closed-loop Partners. Closed-loop partners is a leading circular economy investor in the United States with an extensive network of Fortune 500 corporate investors, family offices, institutional investors, industry experts, and Impact partners. Closed-loop platform spans the arc of capital from venture capital to private equity bridging gaps and fostering synergies to scale the circular economy. To find closed loop partners, please go to

John: Welcome to another edition of the Impact podcast. I’m John Shegerian and I’m so excited to have with us today Melanie Chow Li. She’s the vice president of Mission and Sustainability at Danone North America. Welcome Melanie to the Impact podcast.

Melanie Chow Li: Thank you John. It’s great to be here.

John: Hey, so you’re in my favorite city on the planet, New York City, or New York, New York and I’m sitting here in Fresno, California reconnected and by the way, I share this with you a little bit before we started taping, I love the background that you have. I love all your brands there on display. That’s really a wonderful background that you have.

Melanie: Yeah, we love [inaudible] that we have. It really shows the breadth of all of our products which we provide to the whole age range of US Americans and Canadians around the world.

John: You know, Melanie, we’re going to get talking about everything you’re doing with your colleagues at the Danone’s in Mission and Sustainability, but before we get to that, talk a little bit about the Melanie Chow Li story. Where did you grow up? And how do you get on this fascinating and important journey that you’re on?

Melanie: Yeah, this is a question where I’m always wondering where to start but I’ve been in New York for a long, long time. Most of my life, I was in Westchester and then in New York City, now back in Westchester and I think I’ll start with Mission and Impact has always been a part of my my life, I would say particularly in college. I was exposed to it. I was lucky enough for one of my first college internship to actually be part of a non-profit arts program where they actually paired students like me, who were doing an internship in an Arts and Business Association with business mentors. And I don’t know if you know this, but I studied English literature and I studied art history, nothing really to do with what I do now, which is probably what you hear from most people on the podcast, but I was lucky enough to find a way towards where I am now which was starting in the world of nonprofit and through that internship, I actually saw the value of the intersection of business and nonprofit business at Impact. And I was actually very inspired from that internship, I think it was my freshman or sophomore year, I can’t remember now, to explore the world of business. Something I honestly never thought about. I ended up in I would say, very traditional commercial roles right after undergrad. I did some MMA Consulting, some due diligence work, I also worked in an asset management firm but was always drawn back to the world of Impact. I used to do quite a bit of extra curricular, roles on nonprofit boards, I also was a part of a social enterprise for many years and so I brought that all together when I went to Columbia. I got an MBA. I wanted to exit in the World of Impact and business, ended up at BCG for almost 6 years. So at BCG, The Boston Consulting Group, actually my key focus area was how do we drive Impact around the world? I worked in the climate and sustainability and social impact practice area and making a long story short, but over those 6 years, right? I was exposed to multinational companies. I was exposed to multilateral organizations, 8 organizations, foundations, and nonprofits doing a whole host of Sustainability Health Economic Development work and through that, I really understood and saw how the world is changing in terms of how it operates with the world of Impact and I wanted to take that forward in a company. So here I am, at Danone North America, I lead what’s called the mission and sustainability team for Danone, and this is the team that essentially drive the Impact strategy and the Impact roadmap for the company.

John: I love it. You know, we’ve been doing the show since ’07 and back then, there wasn’t even a lot of people of wonderful brands they didn’t even have Chief Sustainability officers then, and then that that title grew up and then it became also Chief Impact officers, and now there’s also Chief ESG officers or ESG in Impact. We’ve never had a Mission and Sustainability Chief Impact or Vice-president of Mission and Sustainability. I love that title. So talk a little bit about the fun part now Melanie, is that the wind is somewhat at our back even though there’s wind in front of us in terms of these major trends, the wind in terms of cultural shifts and changes with regards to circularity, with regards to the linear to the circular economy, with regards to ESG, and of course, just with the broader impact, the winds and the trends are in our favor, but talk a little bit about how wide are you reading when you wake up every morning and then think about day to day, week to week, month to month and then quarter to quarter, year to year, mission and sustainability could be really narrow and deep or it could be very wide? How was your wonderful and very important title? How wide is it or how narrow is it and deep is it?

Melanie: Yeah, so I think this is one of the really interesting reasons why working at Danone is often, you know top of mine for individuals as they look at different companies. So at Danone, the way that we think about Impact is across three major topics. So it’s very wide, is what I what I’ll say. At its core, is our mission. So our mission is to bring health through food to as many people as possible, and how we deliver on that mission is through three major priorities. So the first is bringing healthy and nutritious food. So this is through the products and how we educate consumers. The second is what I think many typically think of in terms of the term sustainability, so it’s our work that we do to preserve and regenerate nature. And then the third topic is people and communities, and on people and community side, this pans not only how we think about our community internally within the company and the different culture and programs that we bring into place, including [inaudible]. But also how we think about our broader external community and for food and beverage company, what that means is not only the communities surrounding our headquarters, but also our factories which we have over a dozen in North America as well as the communities from which our suppliers are based. And so in some ways, can be global depending on which material that we’re talking about. And so through these three different priorities that surround our mission, we deliver on our Impact and all of this together is called the Danone Impact Journey.

John: Love it. So let’s step back and let’s educate our listeners and viewers a little bit here, Melanie. Danone and for our listeners and viewers to find Melanie and her colleagues and all the important work they’re doing in Impact and sustainability and mission obviously, it’s and then we’ll have other show notes Kurt connect you to more specific opportunities in terms of Danone in North America and other things. But Melanie, let’s [inaudible] up for our audience, how big is Danone in terms of how many countries you do business in approximately, revenues, and employees? Again, these don’t have to be exact numbers, but give a little bit of the macro.

Melanie: Yeah, sure. So I think I’ll stick with my my region which is the one that I’m driving North America. So it covers the U.S. and Canada.

John: Yep.

Melanie: In terms of revenues, we’re talking north of 7 billion. And then in terms of employees, roughly 5 to 6,000 and that stands both our corporate headquarters as well as our factory and plant employees.

John: Got it. And I’m looking over your shoulder, but I also have notes in front of me, some of the amazing and wonderful brands that we all get to enjoy at office and home, Evian water. Right here is my Evian bottle.

Melanie: Yes, I have mine, too.

John: All right. So Danone, Activa, Silk is right over your left shoulder there, Wallaby Organic, and many others. I mean you have so many iconic brands that you represent in the Danone family. It’s really remarkable and amazing at the same time. So, you have this Impact Journey that you’re on, so now how do you break up your day, your week, your month, your quarter on those three legs of that stool on the Impact journey? Is it divided equally up to 33% each or explain how your world operates with those three legs to your stool, the Impact Journey stool.

Melanie: Yeah, I wish I could provide a straight answer. [inaudible] what people say as well, but I think there’s a few points that I’ll make. So number one, the way that we think about our three priorities is they’re actually very intersected. So they’re meant to complement each other. Sometimes the work that you do in one of the priorities actually also has a double impact on the other and I think that’s really meaningful because it means that, even me personally, or my team or the cost functional teams I work with, we’re not [inaudible] our time and we’re actually leveraging the synergies in terms of how we operate in order to deliver multi-pronged impact. [inaudible] one thing but in terms of maybe to give you a little bit more of a snapshot into what we’re focused on now, there’s always major priorities for any given year, I think top of mine for this year, for me is actually our B-Corp recertification. Danone is B-Corp certified and essentially every 3 years, you go through a very extensive recertification process with B lab, the team behind the B-Corp certification. So that has been a pretty long journey over the past year that we’re wrapping up about now, and then there’s quite a bit of momentum that we have on the nature side tied to our recent science-based targets initiative commitments. So doing a lot on greenhouse gas reaction and happy to chat about what that looks like in North America for us. And then on the health and nutrition side, one of the areas that we’re really proud of and we’ve had a lot of momentum in over the past couple of years is how we think about access, affordability, and inclusive nutrition across the U.S. We have a number of programs and commitments that we’ve launched there over the past couple of years and that ends up also taking up quite a bit of our companies time, not just my time.

John: And as you said, I mean, I love the way you laid that out. The three legs of the Impact Journey stool, they converge with one another and potentially accelerate and enhance one another and like you said, you mean it not to be in silos.

Melanie: Yes.

John: Is that by intention? Talk a little about the [inaudible]. I have to claim the ignorance that I even have with regards what I’ve read about it quite often, but I’m not really clear on what qualifies you as a B Corp? And what does that certification process look like?

Melanie: Yeah, let me throw out some facts and I’m happy to go anywhere you want to. We decided as a company to do the B Corp certification because it was really a output of a lot of the things we were already doing as a company. Let me start from the beginning, over 50 years ago, our Danone Global CEO at the time, his name was Antoine Rue [inaudible] speech about how he and how Danone thought about the intersection of purpose and perform it. It’s called “The [inaudible] Speech” but one of the the main quotes there actually and this was before ESG alphabet soup was a thing. So 50 years ago in the 70s, he mentioned his ethos on a multinational corporation, which of that corporate sustainability does not stop at the company door or the factory gate. And what that means is that, a company has much more to it than its profit. And so we’ve been living that for over 50 years and one of the transitions that we’ve done as a company is to actually find a way to really showcase that through an external certification. It’s one thing to say it I think right? To announce it, but it’s another to have an organization like B Lab certify us as entities, as a B Corp. So what is being a B Corp, right? A B Corp essentially is for for-profit companies and it actually entails both a legal entity change. So you have to become a public benefit corporation. And what you do is every three years, you actually go through an extensive audit process that looks at multiple categories across the whole range of the company. So it goes much more beyond what I think many traditionally think about in terms of sustainability. It looks at the governance of the company, it looks at the board of directors, I’m going to throw out random things right, employees and how we think about pay, how we think about DENI in senior leadership and not a senior leadership, it looks at how we treat our suppliers across our entire supply base, it looks at our environmental stewardship, and it looks at how we interact with the community around us and so B Lab in a nutshell, has a number of very rigorous standards across these categories that they rank companies on so you actually get a point score. In order to be a B Corp, you have to meet a minimum and then going above and beyond that really showcases the, I’d say, advanced nature of each company and so to bring it all together, in the U.S., we’ve been a B Corp for almost 9 years. So currently, we’re going through the second round of certification and actually globally, Danone Globally, has a commitment to be 100% certified by 2025. This would make us one of the largest multinational companies in the world to be B Corp certified across all of its entities. Just closing out last year. Over 80% of our net sales globally are certified and that is a very meaningful beat. It is hundreds of legal entities around the world going through their super rigorous audit process in order to really showcase right to the world that we have a stamp of approval from an external body that can really validate what we say day in and day out when we live our mission and when we deliver our Danone Impact Journey.

John: Got it. Your focus you said this year, is that recertification process. How long is that process take about?

Melanie: It takes almost a year, believe it or not. It is a significant amount of collaboration and coordination because the range of questions in the certification really spans from behind the scenes to front of consumer. You actually end up working with everyone across the company. So in terms of even some of our subject matter experts that we’ve brought along the journey with us, it’s over 300 people that we’ve engaged directly in the certification process that has made the recertification a key part of their job for that year and I think that’s really cool actually because it shows how embedded being a B Corp is to us as a company, right? It’s not just a logo that we put [inaudible] pack or certification that we can say we have. It’s something that even our employees live and breathe as they go through their certification process each three years.

John: When you’re talking to your colleagues, what I call the greatest fraternity on the planet, the folks that do what you do, mission, sustainability, impact and ESG, like you said the alphabet soup of sustainability, and I think it’s just one of the greatest fraternities on this planet. I get to meet so many of you because of this platform, because of this show. When you’re talking to them, talk a little bit about being an ambassador for B Corp to you. When other colleagues ask you, when other members of this fraternity ask you, how goes that journey? Should we be considering it as our corporation? They represent their corporations, obviously. Is it something that you highly recommend to others in the sustainability field?

Melanie: Yeah. It’s funny you bring this up. I was fortunate enough to be on a panel on this exact topic at Green [inaudible] recently in Phoenix in February and I think some of the key points I say are absolutely, it’s worth it. [inaudible] give you as a company are putting purpose at your center like what better way to really bring that to life than to be able to look at a set of standards that are externally validated, benchmark yourself against those standards, get a certification ideally, and then also see what opportunities you might have to continue to grow year over year. One of the key things that we think about is as being a B Corp and having already recertified is that we try and we push for a continuous improvement as a B Corp like just being a B Corp and I don’t mean even [inaudible] but just being B corp is not enough, right? Year over year we want to do more. We want to have more and more impact, we want to really stretch [inaudible]. I think especially as the world of ESG has evolved so much as you say, right? There’s always new information, new data, and new standards but I think the other things about being a B corp is you have to be ready. So, senior leadership needs to be on board. You really have to have a road map for all of the different programs that being a B Corp really means and that can start with some of the basics I think which is environmental. I think a lot of people have that under the vowel especially as maybe [inaudible] might have. That’s the natural topic you start with but you really got to go beyond that then to your supply chain and you have to go to your community. You really have to think about how do we understand the overall governance of the company, how decisions are made, how incentives are drawn, and how does that all come together in terms of impact, but I think it’s been an amazing way for us to really anchor all that we do with a partner like B Lab in order to have a roadmap really for the future and continue to live out what we’ve been living out for many decades.

John: So my takeaway and our audiences take away should be a B Corp isn’t just a title. It really stands for B, you got to be better every day?

Melanie: Yes. That’s a good way of putting it.

John: Okay, You reference the Marseille speech. Is there a Youtube video of that Marseille speech or is it in written form, a link to it that you could share with us that we can put in the show notes for our listeners and viewers? Because I think it would be very inspirational for our listeners and viewers to have access to that Marseille Speech.

Melanie: Yes. Absolutely. We can definitely share that. A fun fact is it’s actually so meaningful. [inaudible] the company that every year, we celebrate it. We have something called Danone Day. So every year, we celebrate the anniversary of that speech because it’s so central to how the company thinks about Impact and how everyone we recruit into the company from an employee base standpoint really, feels the ethos [inaudible] recruit from over 50 years ago. I’m happy to share that.

John: I’m loving it. I think our listeners and viewers are going to love it as well and for our listeners and viewers who just joined us, we’ve got Melanie Chow Li with us. She’s the vice president of mission and sustainability at Danone North America. To find Melanie and her colleagues of all the important work they’re doing in mission and sustainability and impact, please go to Talk a little bit about referencing the Marseille speech we were just talking about the Impact Journey that you’re on with your colleagues at Danone. Impact and purpose, obviously, you’re a company that’s commercial. You’re in business to make a profit. Profit then fuel all the efforts that you make and pay the salaries of your team and all the great people at Danone. So there’s no shame in profits, but what’s the right balance act between profits impact and purpose and how do you get that right, Melanie?

Melanie: Yeah. Maybe I’ll start with a quote of our now current Global CEO, which I think really speaks this intersection of purpose and performance. So we, as a company, released the Danone Impact Journey which is our roadmap for Impact in the first quarter of 2023, so about a year ago, and when we release that globally, Antoine de [inaudible], our current CEO mentioned a really strong principle behind the Danone Impact Journey, which is that sustainability without business performance has no impact and business performance without impact, has no future. And what I’ve been trying to do over the past year as we’ve been working to really embed the Danone impact journey into our current strategy and roll it out right cross functionally and also with our external partners is stand by that principle, because I think fundamentally, we as an impact team, can’t succeed if a company doesn’t succeed. But the company also can’t succeed if it’s not accurately thinking about resiliency. And I think that resiliency comes actually from understanding Impact whether it’s the healthy nutrition side of things because we have to work where access and affordability is key for Americans or it’s the nature and sustainability side because at the end of the day, this is a really basic way of putting it, but I find it helpful. We literally cannot produce our yogurt, our plant-based milk, our clean water, our baby food or baby formula, if we don’t have quality ingredients. This is fundamental. We are a food and beverage company. How we make food and beverages comes from the earth.

John: That’s right.

Melanie: So if we’re not doing our job as a company to really preserve and regenerate the future of the Earth, we’re actually cutting ourselves off. We’re not giving ourselves the license to grow as a company because at some point, what we need for these quality products to bring an offer to a diverse set of consumers isn’t available and that becomes a huge constraint when you think about the growth and the profit frankly of a company and so I think a lot of these components, these themes, are what I try and bring to the organization and to our partners as we think about how do you then look at the intersection of purpose and performance because ideally, every program that we activate or every partnership that we drive, has both those in mind, and I think there’s a lot of different ways this can be exhibited. Some of it you can perhaps quantify by using different factors in a business case. For example, taking a traditional financial business case and adding in creative ways to think about ROI tied to Impact. Other ways, it’s more qualitative and it’s really understanding the strategic partnership that we might be creating in order to deliver on profit and performance. But I think all of that to say when I take a step back, every time I talk about impact, I’m thinking about what is the future of the company and how do we really drive the right impactful programs that can enable us to stay competitive and to really grow as a company.

John: And do you produce an impact report every year on this journey?

Melanie: We do. So this is done at the global level, but we have for many, many years produced an impact report and one of the other areas that were very proud of in terms of our annual reporting is the disclosures that we do through CDP. And so, we’re one of the few companies that actually AAA rated for many years through CDP, which is an environmental group. But this covers our climate, our water and our acting.

John: You mentioned obviously the three pillars or three legs of the Impact Journey at Danone. One of them being healthy nutritious food to as many people as possible. Programs lke WIC have been part of that. Talk a little bit about WIC, what that means and what your work is like? What is the journey like to improve food accessibility?

Melanie: Yeah, so I think WIC, is one of those marquee programs that I really love to talk about because it showcases so many tenants of our Danone Impact Journey. Maybe the one that I’ll actually start with is the key for partnerships. I think there’s a lot of need in America. There’s a lot of challenges that we see in terms of Americans being able to access healthy and nutritious foods across all income levels in all geographies and we can’t do it alone. I wish we could. Maybe, I don’t know. I think it’s pretty great that we have partnership but I think fundamentally, we as a company, we as Danone can’t do it alone. So one of the key areas that we rely on is through our long-standing partnerships, the advocacy we do with the government, both at the federal and the state level and what this allows us to do is to really bring more to the picture both through the private lens and the government lens together. So, WIC essentially is a program sponsored by the federal government that provides healthy and nutritious food options to women, infants, and children. It is national and also state-wide and what it does is it allows mothers who have high need to access healthy foods to have a certain amount of funding each month to be able to buy these healthy foods within grocery stores, and I think what’s great about WIC is that it has a few components. It’s not just about what product ends up in their shopping cart, but it’s also a huge way for us to educate families and mothers in order to be WIC eligible. Each mother actually goes through various educational sessions where they can learn about healthy eating, recipes with these healthy nutritious foods, and how to really think about the nutrition of a child over the course of their growth, right? So we’re really proud of this because we are a product company, right? We create products but it allows us to go beyond the product and really find a way to bring our healthy yogurts, soy milks, and baby foods to women and children in need. And so, this has been a program we’ve been a part of for many, many years. And one thing we’re super excited about is that recently, with new regulations, the WIC program is actually expanding which is great news. It means that there’s more money out there for more people in need and also, the diversity of options provided to a mother are increasing. So just to give you an example what that means for a company like us is, previously, yogurt was offered as a WIC option, but the bulk size and now with this new change, mothers can actually purchase single serve, multi-pack. So what that means is you get access to more flavors, you get access to “Hey, one child loves strawberry. Another one wants blueberry.” So how do you balance that is by providing more and more options to women, infants, and children you’re helping to expand the nutritional profile. So we do all of this work through a massive cross-functional set of stakeholders in the company that’s involved. Our public affairs team, driving advocacy on the hill and the state by state level. We have our scientific affairs and registered dietitians and nutritionists working on this, we have each of our brands making sure that they’re formulating the products in a way to meet the WIC requirements because they’re actually quite strict which is great, on what is the right product that can be offered through this program. And so, we really think of our approach with WIC as a three-pronged approach. We renovate our products, we make sure that they meet the requirement by the government, we advocate to really grow that wallet that each family can have and also what they can buy with that wallet, and then we educate. We bring the right resources to mothers in the right channels so that they have more information on hand on how to leverage the different products that they’re able to purchase through the WIC program.

John: How successful is it in terms of the impact and the amount of women, infants, and children that you’re able to serve on an annualized basis in North America?

Melanie: Yeah. So, it’s huge. I mean the WIC program overall [inaudible] really, I think serves over 7 million women, infants, and children and I won’t take [inaudible] company credit for that, but it’s a huge part of how Americans move forward.

John: You’re part of a [inaudible] menu of good nutritional opportunities that you’re offering those 7 million people so that’s part of it. You’re an important part of that.

Melanie: It’s huge.

John: It’s huge. You mentioned earlier the CDP scores that you’ve been getting five years in a row, AAA score. Explain what that means to our listeners and viewers.

Melanie: Yeah, I think maybe the simplest way to explain it, is that CDP, I guess like B Corp is an external body that look at number of disclosures from a company on environmental metrics each year. It basically covers your entire supply chain. And in order to be A rated in each of those areas, you have to meet a number of baseline standards. So policies, you have to show improvement year over year and you have to show growth in terms of where you want to go from an Impact or a map standpoint. So we’ve been a part of that program for many years as you were saying and it helps us again, I think really benchmark ourselves against the industry. We can say a lot but are we actually doing what we say? And is it measurable? These are other companies out there and are we really moving the needle because I think at the end of the day, one of the tough things sometimes about thinking about Impact [inaudible] is they’re so numbers driven, but the whole point of it is to really change the world and so sometimes the way that we can see that is if we’re able to compare ourselves to how others are doing and we can really show that we’ve progressed a lot and push forward quite a bit with the programs that were running.

John: I love it. You mentioned as one of the important legs or pillars of the Impact journey is just the classic meaning of sustainability. Now sustainability, as you and I know, it’s just creating as you say. Impact could be read the same way. Sustainability is really just creating a more resilient organization. In terms of sustainability meeting some of the more recent attachments to it such as environmental benefits, otherwise talk a little bit on what’s your most favorite example to use of a great sustainability win that Danone in North America has recently achieved.

Melanie: Yeah, sure. And because I would say sustainability, the definition of it differs so much by company, it will all just start with a quick overview of what that is for us.

John: Yeah.

Melanie: We have five prongs to our nature-based priority. The first is really decreasing climate change as much as possible through both greenhouse gas emissions commitments overall as well as a specific one on methane, which I’ll come back to. It also means packaging circularity. It means regenerative agriculture, which is key for us because we are food and beverage company so much of what we do comes from our ingredients which come from the land and we also look at reducing waste across the entire value chain as well as water stewardship. So this can stand manufacturing, water and agriculture, water in the communities, in which we operate. But I think one of the really big shifts that we made and the moments that we’ve been really powdered recently is truly our science-based targets initiative commitment and verification. So in late 2022, Danone globally received verified targets by SVTI. So again, an external body that basically looks at your entire greenhouse gas inventory, has knowledge of “Hey, if you at a company in this sector were to a decreased by X percent by 2030, you would make an impact on the trajectory of climate change.” And so, we went through that super rigorous process with SVTI. We got our target, it’s verified at the end of 2022 and have been working on that since then and I think what it does is it really solidifies the carbon-based work that we’ve been doing. We have been doing it for years, but now we have specificity, and we were held accountable quite frankly to the SVTI group. And the other thing that I’m really proud of is that we were one of the first companies globally to actually have our flag targets verified. So you’re probably wondering, right? What flag is? It is basically within SVTI. There’s a component of your greenhouse gas inventory tied to forest, land, and agriculture so FLAG. Another alphabet soup acronym to throw at you and this is significant that we’re putting a stake in the ground that we are a food and beverage company and yes, we’re going to reduce our flag emissions by a lot of percentages over the course of this decades. Our commitment is for 2030 and I think we’re really proud of that because we chose the hard path. We could choose to not have actually our agricultural footprint included in our target. But why would we do that if it is one of the most meaningful areas of what we could truly impact in the world? So anyways, we’ve activated so much work here on the different programs tied to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and it’s also a key topic that we bring to our retail partners to think about how do we really drive this journey together as well as our suppliers and it is a large component of this greenhouse gas work. We’ve also made a complimentary commitment to reducing our methane emissions by 30% over the course of this decade and this is really meaningful for us in this sector because dairy cows release a lot of methane. Methane is not great for the world. There’s a lot of technicalities behind this, but basically in a shorter term period, methane can be 80 times more potent than other greenhouse gas emissions. So if we as a company, want to have impact on the world around us, that means we gotta tackle methane because otherwise it becomes the elephant in the room, right? So we actually need a commitment to reduce our methane emissions by 30% and we’ve been working with different
and partners to really activate this in different ways. Some examples of that are EDF, environmental defense fund as well as the Global Methane Hub.

John: I love it. How much do you work with your counterparts around the world in terms of sharing information and best practices at Danone?

Melanie: Yes, all the time. I would say almost a third of my time is actually spent with different colleagues around the world like yes, I lead North America but I think the way that you really succeed in Impact is to do things together and to leverage best practices. So there’s actually a lot of work that we, as a company do globally. We actually have monthly sharing sessions where we coordinate case studies of success across the world and then within each of our actual functional team, so for example procurement, operations, research and development, we actually have different types of cadences n terms of learning. We’ll have a quarterly together with their packaging colleagues on the global side. And what that allows is for us to constantly be at the front end of where we need to go right? Because otherwise, I think often I might feel constrained by what’s available in the US, but the reality is that different parts of the world are evolving in different ways at different paces and if I can leverage some innovation or interesting partnership that some of my colleagues have done in another region and bring it to America, that’s a huge way for me to then take [inaudible] right here. And so, I actually really, really enjoy the partnership that I have with our Global colleagues and I think it’s super critical. At the end of the day, we’re world right? We’re not actually separated by countries or cities or whatever you want to call it.

John: And the environment has no borders. And the environment has zero borders. [inaudible] Yes.

Melanie: Yeah, so that’s exactly it.

John: Now, let’s take the lens that you just looked at and you made some brilliant points about collaborating with your colleagues, which I think that’s the only way to make truly in the world that we live in today, collaborations make the greatest impact at the fastest speed and the greatest scale. Now, I believe that you’re part of and I’m able to say this now after almost 2,000 guests on this show, one of the coolest fraternities in the world. So where do you look for you, yourself in terms of benchmarking and inspiration and aspiration? Where do you look for inspiration, aspiration and benchmarking both inside your industry and then outside of your industry in terms of connecting with other folks that do the great work and important work that you do, Melanie?

Melanie: Yeah. I mean, I think a lot of it comes through actually personal conversations. You might be at a conference and strike up a conversation with someone who hold either the same or similar role to you. And typically, what I do is I end up going into like a lot of Q&A where I actually would love to know how do you setup your governance structure? How do you think about embedding the financials of impact across the company? How do you think about capex payback when you have to make huge shifts in your manufacturing? Like let’s say you want to change your packaging, let’s say you want to transition your energy right within certain plants? And I think that if I were to stay [inaudible] within our own company, I wouldn’t get all of the answers and there’s huge value to me being able to go to conferences, meet other people with this role, and actually, one of the things I seek out a lot is finding folks in my position, but actually in a complementary industry. So instead of only talking to food and beverage manufacturers, expanding to the broader world of CPG manufacturing because then you don’t have to worry about competitive concerns, etc., but it’s a similar trench. And then, the other option is you could actually talk to people on a different part of the value chain, right? So you talk to your suppliers and what are the main things that are material to them? What are they looking at? What keeps them up at night same with retailers, right? Because at the end of the day, our products go in a store and so if I can understand what that store wants whether it’s a physical shelf or digital shelf and how they’re getting to consumers. I’m making my understanding of how to get impact to the end consumer much stronger because I have now a lot more insight than I did for my own little world as a food and beverage manufacturer.

John: That’s interesting. You know, Melanie, how do you stay positive in a world that has externalities that: A, we have no control over that are very severe and negative but it’s important to stay positive and it’s important to keep inspiring your own team and your employees to be better. What drives you? What gets you out of bed every morning to lead the charge to be better every day at the Danone North America?

Melanie: Yeah. I mean at the end of the day, I think what drives people as action, it can be big action, it can be small actions. But what I try and focus people on that I work with across the company is, sometimes there is a lot of noise out there. There’s a lot of externalities also that we can’t control but if we have agreed upon a set of action, and we work on those actions together, and we deliver them or we evolve them as we learn more, we’re making progress and I think that that’s really meaningful because it allows me and my team to really touch upon multiple levels of the organization. Write an action for maybe an analyst might be different from the action of a senior leader, but I am able to speak that language to somebody and really adjust to what gets them out of bed every day. And so, I really try to drive us to how we deliver the action. If we haven’t, how do we need to reset and how do we find a different way forward and how do we get everyone motivated on the same mission? So I think a lot of what I also do is really showcase how no matter what team you’re on, no matter what product line, the category or if you were on the functional teams, the action you take can lead to this delivery of impact and it might not be [inaudible]. In fact, it probably won’t be using [inaudible]. But without you, there’s really no way for us to get to that whole picture. So I think that I found a bath in a way to really help motivate across the company and take advantage and leverages on how people operate which is that they want to see win in their daily life. So I’m just there trying to find what are the right wins that are meaningful to you. And then when you sum them up, it’s meaningful towards Danone Impact Journey.

John: Who knew that an English Lit major would be leading the way on how to be better at Danone North America? I mean, it’s a great journey, right? I mean, it’s such a wonderful journey. Melanie, as you and I know, impact and sustainability has no finish line and I just want you to know you’re always welcome back on the impact podcast to share the continued important critical journey in impact and sustainability you’re on at Danone North America. I want to thank you again for all your thoughts today, your wisdom, and the journey that you’re on there with your colleagues. For our listeners and viewers to find Melanie and her colleagues, and all the important and great work they’re doing at Danone North America, please go to Melanie, thank you for making us all want to be better. Thank you and your colleagues at the Danone for making the world a better place.

Melanie: Thank you, John. It’s great to be here today.

John: This edition of the Impact podcast is brought to you by Engage. Engage is a digital booking platform revolutionizing the talent booking industry with thousands of athletes, celebrities, entrepreneurs, and business leaders. Engage is the go-to spot for booking talent for speeches, custom experiences, livestreams, and much more. For more information on Engage or to book talent today, visit This edition of the Impact podcast is brought to you by ERI. ERI has a mission to protect people, the planet, and your privacy and is the largest fully integrated IT and electronics asset disposition provider and cybersecurity focused hardware destruction company in the United States and maybe, even the world. For more information on how ERI can help your business properly dispose of outdated electronic hardware devices, please visit


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Danone was recently recognized for the fifth year in a row as global environmental leader with triple ‘A’ score given by CDP. You can read more here: