Europe’s largest organic food company is today calling on the UK government to formally recognise mission-led businesses in UK law and put a stop to the widespread rising industry culture of greenwashing.
Ecotone was formally recognised as a mission-led business under French law in October 2020. Its mission – 'promoting food that is good for people and biodiversity’ – is enshrined in the company's Articles of Association, which means it is legally responsible to deliver on this promise under French law.
There have been some steps in this direction, following a report initially carried out by Deloitte in 2016 – which provided guidance to the UK government on how to identify mission-led businesses and measure their effectiveness against their targets.
But the government is yet to put the report into practice, despite research showing that agricultural expansion accounts for 70% of the projected loss of terrestrial biodiversity, and close to 90% of the world’s marine fish stocks are fully exploited, overexploited, or depleted.
“Introducing an amendment to the law could transform the way business is done in the UK and put an end to the rising culture of greenwashing which is having a damaging impact on the food sector,” says Emma Vass, UK CEO at Ecotone.
“There is a balance to be made between making a profit and having a positive impact on our world, and not all businesses conform to that balance.
“Whilst certification systems like B Corp are great – and we’re very proud of our B Corp score – a new legal system would mean greater accountability and motivation to do things the right way.
“If we took the French ‘Pacte’ Law as guiding example, a company’s ESG (environmental, social and governance) values are written into their articles – showing dedication and legislative compliance. Companies must define their mission, set their targets, commit to independent audits every two years and an impact report every year. This can make a real difference at a time when greenwashing is on the rise.”
As a business that has first-hand experience of the process for being a mission-led business by law in France, Ecotone is keen to share what this has meant for them as a business.
This mission is equally shared by the Better Business Act, which Ecotone has signed along with 2,000 other UK businesses campaigning for an amendment to Section 172 of the UK Companies Act. It vows to make companies take ownership of their social and environmental impact.
The amendment would be particularly relevant for food production companies, according to Vass, which accounts for over a third of global greenhouse gas emissions and continues to contribute to the projected loss of terrestrial biodiversity.
She adds: “With half the world’s habitable land given over to food production, food companies have a responsibility that goes further than their own profits. There is a distinct lack of awareness of the damage industrial farming is having on our planet’s biodiversity. If all food companies had to make firm commitments and were actively held to account, we could transform the modern food system and turn the dial on the climate crisis.”
Ecotone is the world’s highest scoring multi-national food company under B Corp and has been an official ‘mission-led business’ in France for almost three years. It is guided by its Food for Biodiversity mission to make food with plant-based, organic, and alternative ingredients.
Ecotone employs over 1500 people across Europe and owns leading UK brands such as Clipper Teas, Kallo and Whole Earth. It is headquartered in Lyon, France.
Ecotone’s latest mission report is available here: https://www.ecotone.bio/ecotone-releases-its-mission-report
To have a ‘mission-led’ status in France, a company must include the following elements in their articles of association.
· the social and environmental objective(s) that the company has set itself to pursue in the course of its business.
As of February 2023, there are more than 1000 ‘sociétés à mission’ in France. (source in French).
Emery Jacquillat, Chair of the Mission-driven companies association in France, recently spoke at an EU parliamentary meeting to propose a European-wide legal framework giving examples of how Spain, Italy and France are leading the way on this. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/plaidoyer-pour-lentreprise-%C3%A0-mission-europ%C3%A9enne-emery-jacquillat