In the June 2003 issue of Futuribles we published an article by Michel Albert arguing that business could have a key role in promoting sustainable development. Nicole Notat has a similar viewpoint here, showing how the idea of the social responsibility of firms (SRF) has developed, driven by the growing awareness of the social and environmental risks associated with their activities and by a groundswell of opinion among both intergovernmental organizations and civil society.
Mme Notat describes the forms that reactions to these new demands can take, including ethical financing and socially responsible investments, or where necessary outright philanthropic actions. Better still, she stresses that firms can make a real contribution through preventive or proactive strategies that integrate social and environmental concerns in their management.
At the same time, Nicole Notat argues that, because there is no normative statement of what the SRF involves, it is essential to ensure that efforts conducted under this label are in fact genuine. Hence the creation of agencies like the one she heads, Vigeo, which tries to ensure the good faith and good practice on the part of firms.
For her, in any case, the issue is extremely important and the investment in it will be rewarded. A firm that os truly socially responsible has every likelihood of also being more competitive in the short term and, a fortiori, in the long term too.