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Emmanuel Faber at Danone: Man on a Mission (C)

Published 24 Jan 2022
Reference 6712
Region Europe
Summary

Emmanuel Faber, the star Chair/CEO of the global Danone Group, was known for his leadership on sustainability. In 2020, he persuaded shareholders to vote for Danone to become France’s largest “entreprise à mission” (purpose-driven company) – giving it a new ESG-based legal status. As the COVID-19 pandemic progressed, Danone’s sales suffered severely, particularly in its bottled water division, while other “big food” companies thrived. As the share price fell and activist investors glimpsed an opportunity, they began pushing for the separation of the Chair/CEO roles – and for Faber to step down from both. Two pivotal and turbulent board meetings ensued. After the first, the company issued a press release confirming the board’s unanimous support for Faber and announcing he would step down as CEO as soon as a successor had been found. Two weeks later, the increasingly dysfunctional and divided board ousted Faber from both roles at Danone.

Teaching objectives

- Illustrate the importance of actively chairing a business board - Show the way activist investors can derail a leader - The use of sustainability as a smokescreen for poor performance - Gain insights into the inner workings of a dysfunctional board

Keywords
  • Corporate Governance
  • Board
  • Leadership
  • Sustainability
  • Food & Drink
  • Activist Investor
  • ESG
  • Chair
  • CEO
  • Purpose-Driven Company
  • COVID
  • Pandemic
  • Fair Process Leadership
  • Q12022