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Enterprise social responsibility à la française

Socially responsible enterprise. Holistic enterprises that create general wellbeing and not just profits. Enterprise social responsibility is a hot topic these days, comes in a variety of forms, and the term is not always used on purpose or taken advantage of for the right purpose. Nonetheless, it’s important that we understand its many aspects, and two recent, almost simultaneous, publications in France can be of help in that regard. These works provide a clear picture of how such a delicate matter is being handled north of the Alps, not only within the academic world, but also among policymakers.

Responsabilité et performance des organisations” is a ‘public report’ that four French ministries called for in order to better understand the relationship between the work of socially responsible enterprises and their financial performance. Written by Lydia Brovelli, Xavier Drago and Eric Molinié, the report was presented last July and features something that is particularly useful for anyone reading the text and, above all, for anyone who needs to apply it in some way: it provides 20 propositions to give strength to enterprise social responsibility. These 20 principles and operating instructions concern four areas: development of the concept and mentality of ‘global performance’; establishing the means for measuring this performance; identification of the responsible investments to be made; promotion of France’s experience internationally.

Along side this official public document, there is also another important work. “Responsabilité sociale des entreprises” is a book by Philippe Noguès published at nearly the same time as the public report and which discusses both the theoretical and practical aspects of the matter. Noguès (who was a labour leader for most of his career and now works for the National Assembly) first looks at the history of and the theory behind enterprise social responsibility before moving on to a description of a few tools of the trade, but it’s the book’s subtitle that gives meaning to Noguès’ efforts: “Concilier démocratie sociale, écologie et compétitivité” (Reconciling social democracy, ecology and competitiveness).

Because, at the end of the day, the feasibility of enterprise social responsibility comes out of a reconciliation of the needs for profits and competitiveness that are typical of any decent business and the those of democracy and environmental sustainability that are found in any social context.

Responsabilité et performance des organisations

Lydia Brovelli, Xavier Drago, Eric Molinié

June 2013

Responsabilité sociale des entreprises

Philippe Noguès

Fondation Jean Jeaurès, 2013