Lancaster University business students benefitted from advice and insight from a leading figure at one of the world’s biggest food-products corporations.
Eric Soubeiran, CEO of Danone Ecosystem and Vice President for Nature and Water Cycle at Danone, talked about the sustainability drive at a company with a global revenue of 24.68 billion Euros in 2017.
He discussed strategy, finance and marketing in an entertaining and informative engagement with members of the Lancaster University Management School Masters programme.
Mr Soubeiran, who met with LUMS Dean Professor Angus Laing before his talk, spoke about the challenges facing Danone and their aim to ‘inspire a revolution for an entire generation’ with their strategy towards sustainability, which is often seen as incompatible with the financial market.
He stressed that Danone, as a multi-national company with a goal to be carbon neutral by 2050, must accept it has played a role in creating a sustainability problem, and must now contribute to the solution. “If we don’t succeed in this agricultural revolution, the whole human system will collapse,” he told the students, while warning the issue was not treated with enough seriousness.
Mr Soubeiran spoke of how corporate governance can be used to address environmental and social issues, as well as driving towards economic profit, using the strength of companies for the good of the planet.
Students were able to quiz Mr Soubeiran during his presentation and afterwards, enquiring how the sustainability strategy fitted with the need for corporations to make a profit.
“A revolution has always started with one or two people,” he told them about the approach. “I believe this will accelerate, and I have already seen it happening.”
Lancaster University Professor of Strategic Management Martin Friesl said the visit from Mr Soubeiran provided an invaluable opportunity for students to hear from first-hand experience how such a big company is taking a role in tackling the issue of global sustainability.
“Eric provided the students with a lot of valuable information, and gave lots of good advice and direction for students,” said Professor Friesl. “He provided a fascinating insight into the challenges facing a global food business at a time when sustainability and revolutions in food, data and the digital world all provide challenges that must be contended with and adapted to.”