During my tenure as CEO of Danone, we championed the company’s “One Planet. One Health” vision as a source of competitive advantage, rooted in a belief that the health of people and planet are interconnected. In 2017, Danone secured a €2 billion syndicated loan from 12 of the world’s largest banks, with an interest rate determined by our environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance. The interest rate would drop as the company moved toward B Corp certification and maintained our A rating with the Carbon Disclosure Project.
We met those goals, and as we did so, improved ESG performance reduced our capital costs—a clear indication that the financial sector increasingly views sustainable companies as worthy of a better credit rating. A number of listed companies replicated our efforts.
Danone also pioneered voluntary reporting of “carbon adjusted” earnings per share (EPS), demonstrating to shareholders that our carbon-adjusted EPS would grow faster than expected since peak emissions were already behind us—and faster than our EPS would have grown without carbon adjustment. This added to our dividend capability without jeopardizing the company’s long-term investment in regenerative agriculture. Yet three years down the road, this effort remains a relative anomaly across the business landscape. The reason why: a lack of standardized, audited carbon emissions data for corporations and investors.
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