46 minutes | May 2, 2021

#17 Sustainability under attack: Lessons from Danone

Joining me to make sense of the recent dramatic exit of Emmanuel Faber from Danone following a hedge fund attack, are two leading lights of the sustainable business space.Louise Kjellerup Roper is CEO of UK-based Volans, which advises companies that are transitioning to sustainability. Mark Desjardine is a researcher at Penn State University specialized in hedge fund activism.So, was Danone the story of the limits to sustainability?Or is this the opening shot in a new chapter for sustainable business?One that moves beyond the myth of the Sustainability Superhero CEO who acts very much alone to drive the transition, to sell it to the media, and to defend that vision against enemy attacks, both from within and from without.I love this interview because Louise and Mark basically interview eachother, putting together the latest research findings on hedge fund activism, and the signals from companies that are breaking new ground in sustainable business. What emerges is an analysis of the Danone case that goes well beyond the Good vs Evil narrative, and provides fresh insight into the risks and opportunities of this new phase of the sustainability revolution.Timecode:5:40 Firms that do more CSR are more likely to be attacked by activist hedge funds8:30 Only long-term investors can bring the triple bottom line together14:50 New trend of “ESG-style” activist hedge funds like Engine No. 1 - greenwash?19:36 Compare Polman’s and Faber’s responses to hedge fund attacks21.30 Female CEOs make companies more vulnerable to hedge fund attack. Why?24:50 Has the sun set on the era of the alpha male Sustainability CEO Hero?32:56 A new generation of “sustainability-native” leaders will change the game38:45 Should we regulate hedge funds out of business? 41:26 Investor relations is a key battleground for sustainability and long-term thinking Get on the email list at climatenarrativesannotated.substack.com
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