Danone’s board of directors has decided to replace Emmanuel Faber as chief executive and chairman, bowing to pressure from activist investors and blowing up a two-week-old compromise designed to have him remain as chairman….Activist investors attacked Danone for what they cast as its chronic underperformance compared with larger rival Nestlé, and publicly called for Faber’s departure….The departure of Faber, who joined the group in 1997 and took over as chief executive in 2014, marks the downfall of one of the most visible advocates in global business for a more responsible capitalism in which companies do not only serve shareholders but also protect the environment, their employees and suppliers. Danone has espoused a more human, “multi-stakeholder” model of business going back to the 1960s under the leadership of Antoine Riboud, and Faber continued in that tradition.
When Danone shareholders approved a change in the company’s legal status last year to enshrine its social mission, Faber declared they had “toppled the statue of Milton Friedman”. Danone became the first big listed French company to become a so-called enterprise à mission, or purpose-driven company.
Faber also championed the growing environmental, social and governance movement among investors in other ways, such as when the group began reporting “climate adjusted” earnings per share last year and invested heavily in reducing plastic use. Although the activists campaigning at Danone were careful not to directly attack its sustainability focus, they did argue that the balance between shareholders’ interests and others had been lost under Faber.Danone board ousts Emmanuel Faber as chief and chairman | Financial Times