Sustainable development as a factor of competitiveness

See on Scoop.itAlain Renaudin

Despite the crisis, many SME-SMI managers still consider it strategic to implement new environmental, social and societal actions. In particular, to gain in competitiveness.

Alain Renaudins insight:

The result of this Generali CSA study of VSE/SME managers has been a constant for the past 10 years, and I was already measuring it when I launched the sustainable development observatory in 2002. This is true both for business leaders and for public opinion, which no longer perceives any opposition between ecology and the economy. The question, the trigger, is now to move from the why to the how, and to do so intensely (the U-curve syndrome). And that, too, has been going on for some years now!

However, in the light of the experience of these studies and the confrontation with the reality of companies' commitments and attitudes, it is appropriate to put the analysis into perspective, or to be, let us say, more demanding:

Admittedly, the managers interviewed declared to 59% that they were "increasingly integrating environmental, social and societal actions into their company's strategy", but it must be recognised that all this represents such a vast whole that it would be difficult to ignore it, and that these concerns have become so politically correct that it is complicated to ignore them. But above all, contrary to what the report says by taking into account a reference date of 2011 (which must be the date of the barometer's implementation and not the economic reference that is required) and by announcing a "revelation" as of this year, this phenomenon is much older, a good ten years earlier, the beginning of the 2000s, in other words, the beginning of the implementation of the NRE laws, a regulation that has little to do with the free initiative of business leaders.

Another key date is 1987, when the Brundtland Report was published, laying the foundations for the Sustainable Development approach. An even earlier date is the first Earth Summit held in Stockholm in 1972, which was followed by decades of events until the "Rio+20" summit in 2012. From summit to summit, editions that go from failure to failure.

In other words, this history of Sustainable Development is both ancient and very recent. And if the work of alerting and raising global awareness has taken place, this first period (a first phase that will be followed by another of a different nature) has for the moment been more of a challenge to the citizen actor than to the economic or political actor. The behaviours or actions claimed by company managers are fully commendable and beneficial, but remain more the actions of citizen-managers than of entrepreneur-managers. It is more often a question of trying to reduce the ecological and social footprint (which is great) while continuing to operate 'as usual' than of trying to draw inspiration from the ecological and social footprint in order to change their activity. The changes are then more marginal optimisations than breakthrough innovations.

The study also reveals this paradox of company managers on its own if we take a closer look: while a slight majority (55%) consider that taking these issues into account promotes the competitiveness of the company, more of them (68%) recognise that the crisis has slowed down this consideration. While the main motivations are to increase the economic performance of the company and reduce operating costs, the main obstacles are the lack of financial resources and the absence of proof of return on investment. These results clearly demonstrate the apparent paradox of managers who are "not so convinced" as entrepreneurs and who, in order to resolve this equation, rely on the State, believing that it is above all the tax advantages that would enable them to progress towards greater integration of these environmental and social issues, which they believe to be a tangible competitive advantage...

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