Published on 09 September 2018


Carrefour engages key players in its sustainable food transition

Alexandre Bompard, CEO of Carrefour, did not choose the members of the food advisory committee at random. Maxime de Rostolan of Fermes d'Avenir, Emmanuel Faber of Danone, and Lucie Basch of the application Too Good To Go, are all part of this recently launched committee. The global distributor intends to rely on key players in sustainable food and agriculture to ensure its transition towards sustainable food. It remains to be seen whether this desire for transformation steams from true ambition or if it’s just a publicity stunt.

The CEO of Carrefour has just created a food advisory committee composed of key players in sustainable food and agriculture.

Carrefour is continuing its transition. After launching Europe's first food blockchain, partnering with Google, and announcing the opening of 2,000 organically-based convenience stores, the retail giant also cut thousands of jobs, saving €2 billion in costs. The distributor now wants to surround itself with influential and inspiring experts to accompany the group on this new adventure. In an article published on LinkedIn entitled, "Food Transition: time to act", Carrefour CEO, Alexandre Bompard, announced the creation of a "food advisory committee".

The challenges are indeed huge for the company. "The three kingdoms whose development is celebrated by Rousseau - animal, vegetable and mineral - are undeniably in danger today…While states struggle to offer a coordinated response that is powerful enough to ensure the reversibility of these inexorable trends, it is more important than ever for civil society to assume its responsibilities, and especially for the companies that contribute to this ecosystem to take actions commensurate with their scale in order to protect the planet", explained Bompard.

"Push Carrefour to go further, and challenge it"

The distributor, who wants to become the world leader in a food transition for all, will rely on seven independent experts* including NGOs, economists, distributors, producers, chefs, scientists, etc. In short, the committee will include sectors "at the crossroads of all these issues", says Bompard.

Members were not chosen at random, with each member being influential in his or her field. The most anticipated member is Emmanuel Faber, CEO of Danone, who announced in February a redesign of the group’s production model to an organic focus. At his side will be Lucie Basch, founder of Too Good To Go, an application that allows consumers to purchase unsold food at discounted prices before merchants can throw them away. "I want to believe in this change and contribute to it. The idea is to push Carrefour to go further, to challenge it," she says.

Exiting the echo chamber

The influential Maxime de Rostolan, founder of Fermes d'Avenir, will also be part of the adventure. "Large distribution is a link that cannot be hidden, it’s an honour to create this committee, and nothing is required of them," he says. "My primary role will be to remind them of the urgency to act and then guide them towards agroecology, which has proven itself socially, economically and ecologically".

To better compensate producers, one of the biggest challenges discussed during the General Food Congress, Carrefour intends to rely on the experience of Myriam Bouré, co-founder of Open Food France.  This cooperative platform is based on free software that connects farmers directly with consumers via short circuits. A platform that blithely passes though large distribution.

"If it's a publicity stunt, I'll leave like Hulot"

"I think it's important to get out of it and Carrefour realizes that without a profound transformation, its medium-term business model will not work anymore," says Bouré. As for the risk of social-greenwashing, Bouré said she has hope "but I am under no illusion. If I see that it is only a publicity stunt, I will leave like Nicolas Hulot", referring to the recent resignation of French Ecological and Solidary Transition Minister Nicolas Hulot.

This type of publicity is a "communication stance” that Alexandre Bompard is ready to defend.  He writes, "we can only survive by concrete action, not flowery language”. The first meeting of the committee has yet to take place, but it will set the tone for the ability of these players to influence the transformation of Carrefour’s practices and business model.

*Lucie Basch (Too good to go), Myriam Bouré (Open Food France), Emmanuel Faber (Danone), Jean Imbert (chef), François Mandin (farmer), Caroline Robert (oncologist), Maxime de Rostolan (Fermes d’Avenir).

Marina Fabre @fabre_marina

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