The Agence du Don en Nature (“Goods to Give Agency”) was founded 8 years ago and exists to combat exclusion by donating new products to those in need. Its motto: to innovate continually to allow as many people as possible to access everyday essential non-food products, thereby enabling them to feel part of society again.
Interview with Stéphanie Goujon, Chief Executive of the charity.
How did the Agence du Don en Nature get started and what are its aims?
Each year in France, companies are forced to destroy stocks of unsold non-food products: everyday items such as laundry detergent, shampoo, school supplies, etc. At the same time, there are almost nine million people, three million of them children, living below the poverty line, without access to these everyday essentials. These two facts are what led to the creation of the Agence du Don en Nature eight years ago. The organisation works through a logistical and digital platform which enables us to collect stocks of new, unsold products from companies, store them in a warehouse and ultimately, make them available in an online library and distribute them to those who are most in need, through local charity channels. The Agence du Don en Nature works with 750 charities and organisations which work to reduce exclusion.
As you will have gathered, our charitable mission is to help combat exclusion through the donation of products. It’s true that when you think of poverty, what comes to mind first is access to accommodation and food. Which is logical. However, there are lots of everyday items that are important in making us feel included, making us feel like we belong, making us feel normal. And having access to new products specifically, alongside the excellent second-hand donations that are available, helps restore the pride of the person receiving them because they are not products that no-one wants or that someone doesn’t want any more. We have had feedback to this effect, for example from proud dads who have been able to give their children new toys at Christmas, or women who have been able to put on new clothes and boost their confidence, especially to go out and find work. It’s a small step towards inclusion which gives people confidence beyond the functional aspect of the product. In that sense, we are helping people to live, not just survive.
What initiatives are you undertaking to access the increasing quantities of products that you need for those who are underprivileged?
Nowadays, companies manage their stock increasingly efficiently, which means they have less and less surplus. That’s why last year, we opened up our donation scheme to the public. We came up with a project which has been supported by Google and which is currently in a test phase with Carrefour. We designed a next generation version of the supermarket click and collect system: when you buy a shampoo on the carrefour.fr website, you are given the option of buying a second one for someone who is in need.
For this new donation channel to work, we need to increase our visibility and so in 2016, we launched a poster and TV ad campaign.
What are your key challenges for the coming months?
Maintaining constant growth, in a responsible way. Whilst almost 900,000 people already benefit from our service, there are almost 9 million people in need in our country. So you can see, there is still a long way to go! We would therefore like to double our donations in three years. And in order to achieve this, we need to build awareness of our organisation. Our initiatives targeting the public are intended to support this objective. At the same time, we are always looking to innovate, in collaboration with our sponsors
What sort of relationships do you have with your sponsors on a daily basis?
Our donors are all very loyal, for example L’Oréal, Procter and Gamble, Celio, Etam, Carrefour and Seb, who have always been incredibly supportive. We have a motto which sums up our philosophy nicely: less wasting, more sharing. And it’s true that what companies really like is this combined social and environmental approach, which is in perfect keeping with their CSR objectives.
The “course des héros” (Hero Run) is another very practical way in which people can get involved, and provides wonderful shared moments. Our approach to innovation is to create things together, not necessarily coming to a project with pre-formed ideas. We try to understand our corporate donors’ own strategies, so that together we can come up with projects which make sense to both sides. That’s how we came to develop our makeover workshops with Etam and Comptoir des Cotonniersand our back-to-work workshops with Randstad.
Can you tell us more about your partnership with the Altavia group?
Altavia is one of our pioneer sponsors. The group is one of just a dozen donors and organisations who have supported us since the start. That takes vision and real commitment!
How did this partnership come about?
It’s a tale of encounters more than anything. At the time, our founder, Jacques-Etienne de T’Serclaes, and one of our long-standing trustees, Franklin Berrebi, knew the Chairman of the Altavia group, Raphaël Palti, well. When they took the project to him, he was immediately on board. That’s how our partnership began, in the form of a sponsorship based on the donation of skills and expertise.
Do you remember the very first piece of work that Altavia did for the Agence du Don en Nature?
One day we said to ourselves that we ought to have a Progress Report and Franklin Berrebi immediately thought of Altavia. We knew that Altavia would be genuinely committed as they were already supporting some excellent projects. It was a natural connection. They immediately gave their agreement in principle. And that’s how Altavia produced our very first Progress Report. We were thrilled with the result. We greatly appreciated having access to genuine advice and real know-how and ending up with something original and beautiful!
We’ve broadened out our partnership over the years, for example taking part in internal Group events and telling staff about our work. Each year we have gone a step further. In 2016, Altavia helped with our public awareness-raising campaign by taking on the production of the poster elements. And who could forget Altavia taking part in the Hero Run!
What’s especially great for us is that it also helps us to innovate! Each year we reinvent, we do new things: for example, we recently refreshed our visual identity. And I am convinced that we will have more new ideas next year!
About Stéphanie Goujon
CEO of the Agence du Don en Nature, Stéphanie Goujon was involved in launching the charity in 2009. In 2013, Stéphanie Goujon was awarded the “Femme en Or” (Women of Gold) prize in the environment category, in recognition of her work. She is also a member of France’s Economic, Social and Environmental Council, which promotes cooperation between different interest groups and ensures they are involved in shaping and reviewing public policy.