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Agriculture Business

Trusted network of partners a strength – Danone New Zealand

“It is important to us to work with local companies in New Zealand as it enables us to reduce our carbon footprint as well as contribute to the local economy.;”

Danone New Zealand operations director Leon Fung

By leveraging a more collaborative model, Danone gains access to untapped opportunities for New Zealand. Danone New Zealand operations director Leon Fung calls it the idea of collective strength centred around the moto that “together we can achieve much more”.

To this end Danone in New Zealand is focusing on building a network of trusted partners where all parties are winners and leverage each others’ strengths. Leon says that Danone focuses on three pillars with a strong focus on ‘local’.

There is an emphasis on suppliers and farmers, especially for sustainability projects.

Manufacturing and logistics partnerships are the second pillar, widening Danone’s capabilities and forming long-term parternships with players in the industry. Finally universities and research centres are the third pillar for which Danone is committed to building lasting collaboration in New Zealand.

“We work closely with science centres and collaborate on research as we have our own teams of scientists in New Zealand. The aim is to benefit from each others’ findings and improve public and private sector collaboration,” explains Leon.

Building a rich inclusive eco-system of partners includes working with experts to bring to life iconic projects like Danone’s wood biomass boiler in the South Island. Azwood, Danone’s wood fuel supplier for the biomass, will provide wood residue picked up in forests sustainably managed within a 50km range from the facility.

“It is important to us to work with local companies in New Zealand as it enables us to reduce our carbon footprint as well as contribute to the local economy,” says Leon.

Hiring university graduates to join the Danone teams is also part of the strategy to create partnerships with leading universities in the country, embrace diversity and bringing new ideas into the company. The Danone graduate programme aims to grow local talent and future leaders for New Zealand as well as to export this talent to other Danone sites around the world to share knowledge and expertise.

The two-year development programme sees graduates join Danone teams in roles where Leon says they can have a tangible impact on the business from the start. The graduates are exposed to both the technical training required for their roles and a range of professional development opportunities to build their transversal skills. They are also assigned a mentor to support their key individual development.

To build an inclusive network of partners, it is also important to look at all aspects of inclusivity and diversity, believes Leon. Last year Danone awarded Southland DisAbility Entreprises (SDE) its recycling contract in Balclutha, enabling the company to divert 42% of its waste from landfill for recycling. In addition to running a sustainable and successful business, SDE also provides real working careers in a supportive environment to people with disabilities, a key aspect for the team when Danone awarded the contract. Leon says that the partnership illustrates how sustainability not only preserves the planet’s resources but can also help build more inclusive communities and enable people with disabilities to have access to local sustainable work opportunities.

“Building an inclusive ecosystem of partners is the backbone of our business philosophy. Including a variety of players, and bringing people around the table to come up with ‘out of the box’ solutions, is part of the Kiwi DNA of inclusivity, diversity and a can-do attitude. This all fits in very well with Danone’s philosophy of on-going improvement, development and innovation.”

© Waterford Press Ltd 2021

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