November 9, 2021 Yesterday, eleven organic organizations representing organic farmers and consumers submitted a complaint to B Lab against Danone North America describing a breach of the B Corp’s Community Core Values, as expressed in the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence. They also activated a live petition to gather signatures from organic consumers and farmers in support of this complaint, which will be submitted to B Lab every two weeks as signatures grow. Two weeks ago, the group delivered petitions with 15,234 signatures asking Danone N.A., owner of Horizon Organic, not to leave the northeast and leave 89 dairy farm families without a market.
In August 2021, Danone North America notified all their contracted organic dairy farm families in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and a portion of New York they would be ending their contracts and pulling out of the Northeast U.S. market. They plan to transition all their milk procurement west in favor of larger farms. Many of the affected farm families have been providing organic milk to Horizon Organic (owned by Danone N.A.) for decades and have been instrumental in building that successful brand with grass-fed family-farm organic milk.
“Danone’s exit from the Northeast will devastate these families and the rural economies that depend on a thriving dairy industry. Danone’s actions are contrary to the social commitments they made to these farms and their communities,” says Kate Mendenhall, Executive Director of Organic Farmers Association. “As a B Corporation, they must be held to a higher social standard, and we call on B Lab to investigate and suspend or revoke Danone N.A.’s B Corp status until they do right by these farmers.”
The United States Department of Agriculture has launched a task force to help these 89 farmers, and many of the eleven organic organizations are participating. Yet, it will take time to identify and build the infrastructure needed for a new market and the farmers affected will incur increased on-farm costs above the stress this exit has caused. “In Maine, we have actively been working with our state agencies and support providers, but our farmers are suffering,” says Sarah Alexander, Executive Director of Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association (MOFGA). “These organic dairy farmers should never have found themselves in this position. As a B Corporation, Danone N.A. made a commitment to do no harm and benefit all through their products, practices, and profits. Clearly, they have violated this B Corporation commitment.”
Regional producer groups representing the affected farmers will be meeting with Danone North America next week to ask them to stay in the Northeast and invest in the region’s organic dairy farm families who are making great contributions to the local environment and local economies by running grass-based organic dairy farms.
Northeast Organic Farmers Association of Vermont, Northeast Organic Farmers Association of New Hampshire, Northeast Organic Farmers Association of New York, Inc., Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Maine Organic Milk Producers, Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Organic Farmers Association, Organic Consumers Association, Cornucopia Institute, and Real Organic Project together ask B Lab to investigate Danone North America and take appropriate action.
Ed Maltby, Executive Director, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance