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Action Tank, France leads the way

22 February Feb 2016 1012 22 February 2016
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Companies like Veolia and Renault have joined the cause of the non profit association Action Tank, created by Danone. The aim: foster social business

Action Tank is a non profit association aiming at developing sustainable and innovative business models with the objective of alleviating poverty and social exclusion in France. So far so good. But Danone, the French multinational worth more than 21 billion euro of revenues, has decided to support this non profit organisation, that was born in 2010 and that has become today a point of reference in the internal debate of the most important corporate foundations in Italy and in Europe.

The starting point has been the realisation that the battle against poverty has become a challenge also for first world countries (in France 14% of the population lives under the poverty line).

And this has obviously had an impact on the level of consumption. For this reason, the enterprises (as well as Danone, also Veolia, Total and Renault have joined in) have started to look for more efficient models than the old low-cost approach, which is offering the market low quality and low price lines of products, which are often criticised by civil society activists.

In the social enterprise model the quality of the products remains the same and is aimed at a specific category of consumers at a low price. These consumers are often selected with the support of non profit organizations, such as the French Red Cross.

The two presidents of Action Tank are also the co-founders: Martin Hirsch, former French High Commissioner for Active Solidarity against Poverty and Emmanuel Faber, CEO of Danone. The director is Jacques Berger. Professor Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Laureate 2006, is honorary president of Action Tank.

“Enterprises, for their capacity of intervention and the way they identify their products and services, have certainly a role to play in the fight against poverty, and they can deal with social problems, if they are helped in creating innovative solutions. The Action Tank approach positions on a more pragmatic framework than that of classic CSR or philanthropy”, explains Annalivia Lacoste, project manager, (Public Affairs, Communication, Health) of Action Tank.

A deep article titled “Reaching the Rich World’s Poorest Consumers”, appeared last March on the Harvard Business Review, written by Muhammad Yunus (together with Frédéric Dalsace, David Menascé and Bénédicte Faivre-Tavignot), where Professor Muhammad Yunus analysed the Action Tank model. “This new model of business differs radically from traditional low cost model. Differently from what you would imagine, it's more like that of a sophisticated solutions supplier than that of low cost supplier”, say the authors.

There are 7 fields of action: infant nutrition, housing, health, mobility, banking and insurance services, energy renewal. “It is not about proposing low income people or people in dire financial situations low cost products, but proposing them excellent quality ones. Our programmes are financially autonomous and follow the principles of social business: they don’t create losses and profits are reinvested in the projects, that don't rely on public funding.”
An example is the Malin programme on infant nutrition, which offers vouchers and family support services with practical advice on feeding 0 to 3 year-old infants properly. Action Tank has a team of 8 people, but its network in France and abroad numbers up to about 800 people.

A video on Action Tank can be watched at the following link:

Cover photo: ©Action Tank Entreprise et Pauvreté

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