On 26 June 2020, at its AGM, the shareholders of Danone, a multi-national food company, voted to adopt the French “société à mission” status. Danone became the first listed company in France to commit to this new status. CEO Emmanuel Faber tweeted that, “no one can ever pretend now this is not possible for a big cap company”. Danone’s current market capitalisation is €42.24 bn.

What does this mean? The two key characteristics of a “société à mission” are that the company’s constitution must contain a mission, or social or environmental goals, which go beyond profit. It must also establish an independent committee to monitor progress.

What does this mean for Danone? Danone’s purpose "is to bring health through food to as many people as possible”. Its strategic goals and social and environmental objectives (its mission), which are aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, are to:

  • Impact people’s health locally;
  • Preserve and renew the planet’s resources;
  • Entrust Danone’s people to create new futures;
  • Foster inclusive growth.

Both Danone’s purpose and mission are set out in its constitution. Danone has also formed an independent mission committee to oversee implementation.

There is no equivalent status in the UK which would enable a quoted company established in the UK to make similar changes. Interestingly in the US, a quoted company could be structured as a public benefit corporation, or P.B.C.. Time for things to change in the UK?