I had a coffee yesterday with the general secretary of Carrefour, one the biggest distributors in France and in the world.
The group is conscious about the fact that they have lost the digital transition of the food system, and they also announced in their strategy their will to position themselves “at the service of the transition of the food system”. They did took two bold positions recently:
- one on defending at the EU level the seeds freedom (that had an influence in the recent openings in EU in that area)
- one on 100% plastic free packaging
Of course, those are nice banners, and we can’t really know:
- their level of freedom in a model where they are goverened by shareholders whose objective is, at least for some of them (probably most of them) to maximise their cashback
- their real will to deeply question and transform their model…
They are implementing a small “advisory committee” with 5-7 “visionnary kind of” people in it, from different backgrounds, who think and implement the transformation of the food system. Lucie from TooGoodToGo (a friend, the app is about reducing food waste by enabling restaurants and shops to sell at reduced price remaining food at the end of the day, through a mobile app) talked about me, about the food commons, Open Food Network. She accepted already to participate to this committee, as well as the CEO of Danone.** He offered me to take part in that committee.**
The intention of this committee is to inspire, propose, models and experimental projects that could start orienting the group in a different and meaningful direction.
The vision I shared with him
I was 100% honest with my analysis of the root causes of the sickness of the food system and the problem of centralisation in which big chains like Carrefour are sitted. I shared my political vision, and the one we defend in OFN, which si a decentralized food system, reconnecting producers and eaters, sovereign, made of hundreds of small independent producers and distributors. I shared my vsion of the necessity for a group like Carrefour to change their posture, to become more like “facilitators of an ecosystem of retail shops”, proposing mutualised services that are codesigned with the retailers. I shared that crazy idea that Carrefour could inspire from the cooperative supermarkets model, to involve again the eaters and producers in the governance of the shops (=ownership sharing / decision sharing / fair value chains, etc.). I talked about all those grassroots democratic experiments that so many food hubs are carrying on, transforming slowly the whole culture toward a new consciousness of the commons at all levels, where individuals get out of their consumer posture to become again contributors, coowner, codeciders. And many other things…
He didn’t run away, and proposed me to join their small committee to defend the voice of the commons…
Why I would like to accept
For me, if those big actors that we are trying to disrupt by inventing a new food system start imitating us (truly, not just on commons washing I mean…), that would be an incredible lever to maimise our impact. To create an even more system effect. I am not naive here, I just say that if we can have a role of “influencer” to try to orient the evolution of such groups in the direction we think is best for humanity and planet, it would be a pity not to do it.
So I am tempted to accept… and see after the 2-3 meetings what this committee really is and the real intention to change, behind the scene. And I can quit anytime…
Why I would like your consent (the image risk I see about it)
BUT we need to discuss, and I think that decision should be made together, in France and globally. In France we are discussing with our users as well what they think about it… (we just launched a post on the French discourse):
This committee will be “public” and Carrefour will communicate about it, and I will be cited as “Co-founder of Open Food France”. In France at least, but I guess maybe more globally, there is a potential image impact, and I’m not sure if those kind of “cooperation with the big bad guys” would be positively perceived… I see a risk.
I propose two things:
- If I say yes I would add a condition which is that my contribution should always be recontextualized with why I am there, something like: “Engaged at the service of the development of food commons, and conscious that the transformation of the food system need to get all actors involved, Myriam accepted to participate to that committee to infuse the culture of the commons in the future orientation of the group, etc.” WITHOUT engaging the Open Food France or Open Food Network organisations. There is no collaboration between Carrefour and Open Food France/Network and no communication should make that misunderstanding possible.
- And I would like a consent from you dear friends through your reactions to that post…