Danone North America will host its fifth annual dairy forum in Philadelphia from Oct. 22 to Oct. 24. Rich in America's history, Philadelphia is the perfect backdrop for this year's forum, Danone North America said, which pays tribute not only to the deep history the company is building together with farmer partners, but also to the 75th year of the company in the United States under its flagship Dannon brand.
The suburbs and surrounding areas of Philadelphia are home to many of the family farms that supply Danone North America with the milk used to make its dairy products. But farmers across the country, engaging in practices ranging from organic to non-GMO to conventional, will have the chance to share, learn and connect at the forum, the company said.
The company's direct relationship with farmers also helped Danone North America achieve certification as the world's largest B Corp, as relationships with suppliers are one of the many areas evaluated in the rigorous "Business Impact Assessment," which looks at company stances and practices via hundreds of questions about governance, environment, communities and workers. B Corp certification is for businesses what organic is to food products, Danone North America said — a promise that a company is committed to doing business in a certain way.
"We look forward to the dairy forum every year because it gives us the opportunity to convene and spend time with our farmers, who are at the heart of our business,” said Mariano Lozano, CEO of Danone North America. “People care about where their food comes from, how it was grown, how it arrived in their hands, how the employees who helped make it are treated, and how foods impact their health and the future of the planet. Working with farmers, which we do daily, enables us to provide the transparency that is important to them as they make choices about what food and beverages they will buy to nourish their families."
Over the course of the two-day forum, farmer partners will participate in a customized program designed to engage them in the topics that matter to them, including an update on Danone's history and business by Lozano. Following the business update, farmers will have the opportunity to participate in an unfiltered Q&A with Lozano, Danone North America said. This level of transparency and accessibility reflects Danone North America's commitment to working directly with dairy farmers as mutually-reliant business partners, and as dedicated stewards of the environment.
The forum agenda will include learning sessions; an update on the role of the supplier for B Corp certification; a farmer panel featuring farmers specializing in organic, grass-fed and non-GMO practices with representation from different regions; an update on soil health; a conversation with Michael Dykes, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association; and more.
In addition, the forum will feature an awards ceremony, during which Danone North America will recognize select partners for exceptional work in four key areas: nature, economics, well-being and social. The company said it will also honor a Supplier of the Year.
In addition to these honors, Danone North America said it awarded eight recipients with 2018 HOPE Scholarships, a program that encourages young people to pursue careers in organic or sustainable agriculture and/or large animal veterinary science. The students, each of whom will receive $3,500, are children or grandchildren of Danone North America's robust network of family farmers.