Announced today at the 11th annual Clinton Global Initiative, the Coalition was conceived of by executives at Danone's U.S.-based companies in consultation with CGI.
"What has really inspired [Coalition members] is what we can achieve when we work together," Luciana Nunez, managing director of early life nutrition at Danone U.S., said at a media conference this morning. "The U.S. is a great country. We've put a man on the moon, we've cured polio, we've cured tuberculosis, we've invented technologies with great ingenuity that are shaping society today."
However, she continued, "there's an area that we believe we are falling behind."
And that is workplace policies for new mothers and fathers.
"The U.S. is the only developed country that has no paid parental leave, and the reality is that this is more important than we think," she said.
Nunez, alongside a panel of representatives from founding members of the Coalition including U.S.-based divisions of Barclay's, Danone, Ernst & Young, KKR and Nestlé, explained some of the benefits of companies across the country "stepping up" their commitment to working parents.
"Progressive companies have taken the lead in the United States in improving comprehensive workplace practices during the transition to parenthood, including paid leave as well as supports for new parents and their infants," Ellen Galinsky, president and co-founder of Families and Work Institute, said. "They've found that the beneficiaries are not only the health and well-being of babies and employed parents, but their companies and our economy!"
That sentiment was echoed by Nunez, who outlined the health and financial benefits of supporting new parents through parental leave, back-to-work strategies and in-office support.
"When that mother can actually continue to breastfeed up to six months, that baby is going to have a much lower risk of obesity later in life," Nunez said. "That mother's going to have a much lower risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer. That strategy alone has the potential to save billions of dollars to the economy."
Addressing gender equality, Nunez added that when "women that take better leave, [they] are 50 percent more likely to come back to work."
Companies, she argued, are also starting to realize that the policy is simply a "good business practice."
"When you have a parent that has better leave, you actually will see that both parents and babies are healthier, and therefore the total cost of healthcare for that company is going to go down."
While the companies stressed that each of their approaches to working parents would be different, what they did emphasize was the ability to learn from each other through the coalition — whether that's adopting policies from other companies or helping smaller companies achieve business goals while implementing parental leave strategies.
"It's about retaining talent. It's about recruiting talent. It's about making sure we have happy, productive employees, and this goes for both mothers and fathers," said Alisa Amarosa Wood from private equity firm KKR. "It's not easy to go out on maternity or paternity leave and come back a couple months later assuming the world all stays the same."