Emmanuel Faber, Chairman of the Board & Chief Executive Officer, Danone, exclusively for SPIEF.
What innovations are a priority for the world today?
There are so many. When people think of innovation they often just think of product or information technology. But, innovation will change the world in so many ways. For me, a critical area for innovative thinking is how we find ways to secure greater biodiversity.
I think the way the food industry has developed has caused the world a problem. Only 15 species of plants today nourish 75% of human needs. That is not sustainable and causes too many systematic risks, crises and drives volatility in the price of food.
So, we need to find innovative ways to diversify our approach to food. We need to do this fast to find the right food answers for the new 3 billion human beings that will be in our world in the next 50 years.
On what should world leaders agree?
One of the great things about such a big business meeting is that it is a forum to talk, and yet not always to agree. We can learn, and should learn, from other people’s opposing views.
That said, in the long term, building walls and barriers – be they physical or via trade - will only harm us all. So, my wish is that leaders agree to listen and agree to look to connect and reconnect. I would also add that it is not all down to our leaders and what they agree. We must all take our own personal responsibility, and especially so as business leaders. For me, the world starts to change when we each change our minds and our commitment. As Chairman and CEO of Danone, my commitment is to nourish and nurture both people’s and the planet’s health, both actually being strongly interconnected.
What is your economic outlook for 2030?
I am not a macro-economist. Any outlook I have is best seen through the lens of Danone and what we aim for as a company. But we must assume that we will continue to expect market volatility because that is a day-to-day reality with which we have all become accustomed.
However, when looking this far ahead, we at Danone have a different dimension with which we assess and chart our course from a macro perspective. For Danone, we are clear that our longer terms goals stretching out to 2030 would be in line with those of United Nations and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals agenda. Through our vision of “One Planet. One Health” and our mission to bring health through food to as many people, our ambition is to create and share sustainable value for all, in line with our historic dual commitment to economic success and social progress.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs today?
Find your own way but keep your freedom; the freedom that made you take the risk and sparked the passion to create something new.
Also, don’t allow success and growth to trap you into silo thinking, into not hiring people smarter than you or better than yourself; into no longer taking risks and just being happy with the status quo; and into not being true to yourself.
What is the purpose of life?
This is something personal to each and every one of us. Distinct and unique. So even if I have a view it is probably of little use to someone else.
That said, I think the purpose of life is often the journey you take to seek that purpose. How you travel is as important as to where you travel.
I grew up in the French Alps in the mountains and its air stays with me and grounds me. The people and the natural world there have shaped me and made me ready for my journey.
So, the purpose of life for me is to find a way to be free enough to fulfil my potential that best serves the world in a positive way. As the leader of a global food and beverage company, serving the food revolution with safe, nutritious and tasty products while inspiring healthier and more sustainable eating and drinking habits is part of that purpose.