This article has been sponsored by Danone India
In recent years, state governments and private organisations have taken several initiatives to mitigate India’s water woes and move towards a more sustainable future. From individuals forming citizen collectives to solve problems specific to their areas, to some larger companies rising up to the occasion and making the environment a priority — the country has seen a gradual shift in how sustainable impact can be created.
Danone India is one of them. Danone, as a multi-local food and beverage company founded in 1919, has had its focus on health-based foods since its inception. It continues to innovate and create healthier food choices for consumers across the globe. It is this principle of positive impact that further drives its larger philosophy of protecting and nurturing the planet’s health for future generations.
“It’s in the interest of any company to take good care of its business and social environment- what I’d call its ecosystem,” former CEO of Danone, Franck Riboud said a few years ago.
From innovative solutions and products that sustainably address local needs and promote healthier diets, to initiating environmentally responsible practices like 100 per cent recyclable packaging by 2025, Danone is hoping to reduce its carbon footprint through positive change.
Healthy food depends on a healthy planet.
Danone India’s efforts towards a positive change stem from a philosophy that the health of the planet and the health of the people living inside of it are intrinsically linked. This forms the crux of its larger initiative called One Planet One Health (OPOH).
“Taking care of the environment is an important part of Danone’s OPOH frame of action which is guided by the belief that the health of people and that of the planet are interconnected. This frame of action encompasses critical areas impacting our planet like water and circular packaging which can’t be ignored” says Himanshu Bakshi, MD Danone India.
A drop not wasted is a generation saved
Driven by the overarching philosophy of water conservation, Danone India has not only reduced water consumption by 50 per cent at its production site over the last 5 years but has also installed rainwater harvesting systems in its factory. These steps ensure both preservation and optimum utilisation of the valuable natural resource. One such example is the factory in Lalru, Punjab.
Home to their infant nutrition portfolio manufacturing site, Punjab is one among the many states grappling with the issue of water crisis, as 80 per cent of households struggle to access clean and safe drinking water. The situation around this has a deeper impact on its population especially because its rural population depends on agriculture. Moreover, lesser than normal annual rainfall of around 700 mm for the last 20-odd years has pushed the state into a dry spell.
Also, the rampant use of pesticides and fertilizers in agricultural fields have not only depressed the soil’s fertility over time but has also adversely affected the quality of groundwater in several parts of Punjab.
Given these circumstances, Danone India, stepped up to give back by being actively engaged in water stewardship in Punjab for the last 20 years. From ensuring that their internal operations do not waste a single drop of water, to helping preserve and restore water resources in agriculture and watersheds, they have been driving substantial change on the ground level.
With the objective of promoting sustainable operations, the factory ensures that any land discharge of water meets both government regulations and Danone’s very stringent internal compliance standard called “Clean water standards”.
“We believe that sustainable operations have to be the foundations of our business. The Lalru Plant is on the pioneering journey of achieving “Zero Water Factory (ZWF)” by 2023 and every person associated with the plant is committed to this mission. At the heart of this journey is the philosophy of 4R (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle & Reclaim) methodology of water reduction,” says T Aswin, Factory Director at Danone India.
The objective here is to give back to nature by replenishing the groundwater, twice as much as what is consumed and achieve overall positive water balance at their manufacturing site.
Through Danone Communities, a venture capital fund investing in social businesses, Danone has partnered with Naandi Community Water Services (NCWS) one of India’s largest social enterprises established in 2010. They have set up decentralized community water centres in regions where the existing sources of drinking water are contaminated and unfit for consumption.
Speaking about the initiative Divya Yachamaneni, CEO Naandi said, “Safe drinking water is a precursor to good health. Unfortunately, in India, less than 50 per cent of people have access to safely managed drinking water. The problem is exacerbated by depleting water levels in many parts of India. We at Naandi Community Water Services have partnered with Danone to help local communities gain access to safe drinking water, which is a basic human necessity. So far, we have served over 700000 people in vulnerable pockets”.
Protecting the Planet
And as part of its drive to protect the planet, Danone India has taken a number of measures. Optimising and eliminating plastic packaging when not absolutely necessary and initiating innovation of new packaging materials that are 100 per cent recyclable and compostable, are just some of the steps they have taken.
Every single step and strategy by Danone India is in line with the overarching goal of tackling various environmental challenges that are critical for the health of the planet. The is how embracing sustainable practices like these remains at the crux of its framework.
In addition to these, Danone India is trying to work towards empowering communities and farmers who are working toward improving the quality of their products. In Jagraon, Punjab, the company is connected to almost 5,000 farmers to procure milk for its infant nutrition products. In order to enhance milk quality and productivity, Danone India launched the AcadeMilk program in the last quarter of the year 2013.
Primarily a training program on sustainable dairy farming practices, it aims at improving the quality of milk produced with better microbiological standards and control on antibiotics, which is in turn used in a variety of products in their range. This initiative, empowers the community both financially and socially, while also enabling them to practice sustainable farming practices.
As an outreach program, they also extended the training for women, who are usually the principal caregivers of dairy animals but often not included in a model dairy farm owing to social norms. What started with just a dozen of them has now become a movement with more than 25 per cent of the attendees being women.
Danone India’s efforts towards a holistic development of the planet and its people both in terms of health and livelihood continue to impact thousands of lives across rural and urban parts of India.