- IMD Business School
News Stories · Leadership - Sustainability

Care for your workforce and communities to nurture a sustainable business

Rosario Bazán has cultivated a blooming agribusiness, empowered women, and uplifted communities in Peru on the principle of shared value. It’s more important than ever now, she says, for companies to prioritize the prosperity and wellbeing of their employees and communities as much as profits to grow a sustainable business.
4 min.
June 2022
 - IMD Business School

In her OWP keynote, the trailblazing Peruvian entrepreneur drew lessons for executives from her experience of building Danper up from an asparagus processing plant to a highly successful social impact business, arguing that companies have little choice today but to deliver benefits for all of their stakeholders to drive continued competitiveness.

“Nowadays, more than ever before, in this very complex global situation, I believe it is mandatory that our personal values, principles, and purpose go beyond economic profit and go beyond our own individual interests, in order to generate real progress and social peace in our society,” Bazán told OWP participants.

“One of our main challenges as business leaders is to make inclusive growth happen within our businesses and beyond them, generating continuous progress and social peace in our societies,” she added.

With internationally-popular products ranging from organic quinoa and healthy ready meals to fruits and sauces such as pesto, Danper is built on a concept of shared value, which places people, the environment, and local communities on a par with corporate profit.

Supporting Peru’s development through sustainable enterprise

For Bazán, the first female CEO and company founder in Peru’s agriculture industry, this approach represented the most effective way to play a positive role in Peru’s development as it emerged from a difficult past marred by political violence, social conflict, hyperinflation, poverty, and high unemployment.

“I had the dream to build a business through which I could contribute to the development of my country by making it capable of generating economic profit and, at the same time, capable of creating progress for our workers and our communities,” she explained.

Bazán said she learned early on that purpose would be vital to drive both positive change and profit as a business leader, especially in underserved communities, arguing that you cannot be a five star business in a zero star community.

“I developed a personal purpose in my life that is very much connected with the adverse reality that affects my country and that purpose is the one that made me become an entrepreneur,” she said.

For Danper, at the basic level, this means offering decent pay, equal opportunities and good working conditions for its staff. But Bazán wanted to do much more: offering free-of-charge health and education services, and investing in the promotion gender quality, as a means to promote social progress and peace.

“We are a vehicle that generates development, incorporating in the core of our business solutions to those social problems that improve the quality of life and productivity of our workers and, at the same time, impact the profitability of our business and the sustainability of our ecosystem,” she said.

‘Investing in workers and communities is good business’

Stronger communities and a better quality of life for employees, Bazán argued, has resulted in more productive teams and more successful business outcomes.

In the Danper business model, the health of one tree or plant is dependent on the health of the entire ecosystem, and vice versa. As the numbers show, this model has proven to be extremely successful – and sustainable. In 2021, Danper notched sales of more than $230 million – a 57-fold increase on its initial revenue in 1994.

This holistic and caring “ecosystem” approach reaches far beyond Danper’s own boundaries and into the communities in which it operates.

“Investing in our workers and communities is a good business,” she explained. “It contributes to social peace and leads our business and communities to sustainability.”

Bazán is keen to stress that social impact does not, and should not, come at the expense of economic progress, rather that the two should be complementary.

“I want to emphasize that inclusive growth requires, at the same time, economic growth and social progress,” she said.

Today, as one of Peru’s largest agribusinesses, Danper employs around 14,000 people – more than 40 times its 1994 workforce – and indirectly supports about 40,000 jobs in the wider economy. Half of its employees are women, a sign in itself of the company’s commitment to female empowerment as a means to spark positive change in society.

“When a woman generates her own income and is treated with respect and dignity, she becomes a change agent of her own destiny and will provide her children the development opportunities she did not have,” Bazán said. “Investing in our workers and communities is a good business.”