This autumn, Futuribles launched a series on the contributions of business to the common good. Among the proposed articles are various accounts from actors in organizations working to promote the general interest. After Initiative France and the Schneider Electric foundation, it falls to a large-scale public company, the French railway network, to outline the activities of its SNCF Foundation.
Marianne Eshet, General Secretary of the SNCF Foundation, shows, for example, how it contributes in France to improving the common good along two major lines of action: “Living together” and “Doing together”. She explains how the foundation’s collective strategies have emerged and how they have been embodied in partnerships, according to the needs identified. Three examples illustrate this commitment: “inter-associativity”, which aims to bring together various NGOs around a common project, is illustrated here by the “Doing Together with our Differences” programme; the co-construction of projects at the local level is exemplified by the Fabrique Opéra [Opera Factory] cultural project; and the co-construction of projects on a national scale by the development of the Alliance for Education. These variable-geometry partnerships show the relevance and success potential of more informal alliances and arrangements between enterprises, on the one hand, and public and private actors, on the other, to further the general interest.
This autumn, Futuribles began a series on the contribution of enterprises to the promotion of the common good. Among the articles in that series was a presentation of the way French enterprises have been involved, over the years, in public interest missions – as well as various accounts by actors in organizations working in that general direction. That series is continued in this issue with another stakeholder testimony (a piece by Marianne Eshet on the SNCF Foundation) and with this article by Philippe-Henri Dutheil laying out the legal regime that applies to social enterprises in three of France’s European neighbours.
By the time this issue appears, the French Senate should have come to a decision on the PACTE law (Plan of Action for the Growth and Transformation of Enterprises), which was passed this autumn by the National Assembly and makes provision, among other things, for facilitating and regulating the new legal category of entreprise à mission (English: “benefit company” or “benefit corporation”), which first appeared in 2015 and allows enterprises to include their commitment to the general interest in their memorandum and articles of association. Here Philippe-Henri Dutheil outlines the legal options that enterprises have in Belgium, Italy and Luxemburg to encourage and enable them to play their part in promoting the common good. Since these three countries have legal systems quite similar to the French, they may serve as a source of inspiration to French lawmakers to continue down this same path.
Depuis 2000, l’Organisation des Nations unies (ONU) se fixe des objectifs assez précis et ambitieux en faveur du développement à l’échelle mondiale. Après huit OMD (Objectifs du millénaire pour le développement) adoptés en 2000 et affichant des objectifs à l’horizon 2015, ce sont 17 ODD (Objectifs de développement durable) qui ont pris le relais en 2015, avec un horizon décalé à 2030 et des cibles tout aussi ambitieuses (éradiquer la pauvreté, la faim, promouvoir la santé, le ...
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In our September/October issue, we began a series of articles on the contributions made by companies to the common good. We continue that series in this issue with the stories of some of the actors at the centre of these activities. After the experience of “Initiative France”, presented in the foregoing article by Jean-Pierre Worms, it is the turn of Gilles Vermot-Desroches to lay out what Schneider Electric has done in terms of sponsorship and developing its social responsibility in the broader sense. Launched in 1998, as CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) was beginning to become an established norm, the Schneider Electric Foundation provided a logical continuation and expansion of the initiatives taken by the company within its sector across the world, bringing the greatest possible number of stakeholders together. Twenty years later, we can see here how a company can, concretely and at its own particular level, participate in promoting the common good, and extend its activity as new societal challenges emerge.
Despite the “social welfare services” developed by entrepreneurs as early as the 19th century and later criticized as “paternalistic”, the view in France for many years was that it was virtually the exclusive role of enterprises to make profits for the benefit of their shareholders and that everything relating to the collective interest was almost exclusively the business of the state. However, this division of roles is perhaps being undermined today by a multitude of factors. On the one hand, enterprises can no longer ignore the aspirations of their staff to work for meaningful ends, nor the ethical concerns of their clients, nor the fact that they themselves draw on shared (natural) resources and their activities may be destructive of an ecosystem whose fragility is becoming clearly visible… On the other hand, states, which have limited resources, cannot do everything and are perhaps not meant to shoulder the burden of embodying the common good all on their own. These considerations lead to our having launched, under the direction of Marthe de La Taille-Rivero, a series of articles published over several issues of Futuribles on “Enterprises and Constructing the Common Good”.
It falls, then, quite naturally to Marthe de La Taille-Rivero to introduce this series with a first article which shows how a certain concern for the common good took shape in France, mainly after the Second World War—a concern driven by some major employers and often influenced by the Anglo-Saxon countries and goes on to indicate the crucial additional impetus given to this movement from the 1980s onwards by Jacques Rigaud, the chair of Admical (Association for the Development of Industrial and Commercial Sponsorship).
She also highlights how business support that was originally targeted towards cultural activities has diversified appreciably to take in social matters and, subsequently, problems of the environment and sustainable development, as well as local development issues. Her article also stresses that companies’ modes of intervention have themselves changed a great deal over time, with the development of Corporate Social and Environmental Responsibility (CSER) and sustainable development policies, alongside sponsorship of the arts and philanthropy. Is all this just part of corporate communications and image creation or does it represent a profound, enforced redistribution of roles, a hybridization of functions pregnant with a future that is quite unlike the past?