A PARADIGM SHIFT
Until the pandemic hit, in terms of social and environmental change, consumers who were avid, yet tired of fast fashion, primarily expected action from political decision-makers. A health crisis and an IPCC report later, there’s no more pushing off the responsibility on others. Active consumers have now learned their lesson. Aware that changes may be made without them, they’re now ready to put the behavior of every company under the microscope. Companies must now be beyond reproach. This necessary and expected change in direction is now underway.
CSR: 3 LETTERS THAT SAY SO MUCH
Corporate Social – or Societal – Responsibility, or CSR, is a deliberate, well-thought-out approach for companies that have decided to fully integrate into their business environmental concerns that have a strong ecological impact, as well as social, economic, and ethical issues. Such issues have now become a matter of priority and cover matters of governance, human rights, working conditions, best practices, and questions related to consumers, communities, and local development. These
are relevant spheres for action where companies will be able to define their priorities and take initiatives.
WHY MAKE A COMMITMENT?
It was in 2011 that the European Commission chose to define CSR as “companies’ responsibility in terms of the impact they have on society”. The implementation of a CSR policy also enhances a company’s performance. It is a progressive approach that involves a total questioning of practices at all levels in advance: human management and social dialogue, communications and customer relations, production, inventory management, deliveries, etc.…The result is obviously to work effectively and responsibly, specifically taking economic, social, and environmental challenges into constant consideration.
Every link in the textile chain, following the example of companies with a declared ecological ambition, can
now use this approach. Within an economic and social context in upheaval due to doubts and uncertainties,
responsible commitments are no longer just an option. According to a survey by Deloitte, 73% of fashion firms
have a CSR manager. That’s a good start. But only a start: 40% of these firms have set quantifiable objectives. It’s in the choice of raw materials that a lot of work remains to be done: though 72% of brands use sustainable materials, only 4% of them use them for over 50% of their total output.
Sustainable commitments are a must if the environmental objective does not hurt profitability. They are necessary,
so long as they can fulfill the desires of consumers who are sometimes hard to understand. These consumers have been changed by the pandemic, and are ready to consume less, to consume differently: according to the Zeno survey (1) conducted among 8000 consumers in 8 countries, 83% of them estimate that a company should only make a profit if it has a positive impact on society. Whether they’re eco-invested or ecoskeptical, consumers have indeed changed their views on companies. It’s now companies’ turn to change and reinvent themselves to make shopping a delight again. Nowadays, waiting for CSR to become a requirement is a trap any company should avoid falling into.
An assessment is the starting point for action: pragmatism and realism must allow for the identification of relevant, coherent progress targets, after an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the firm, a ranking of priorities, and a definition of its reason for existing. Its reason for existing is, in fact, a key stage in building a responsible enterprise. It emerges from the PACTE law (2019). This allows firms to establish a “CSR target” by forcing the company to truly question its place in society. “It’s about the contribution the company wishes to make to the major societal, environmental, and economic challenges faced within its field of business, including its main stakeholders.
It’s a strategic target that helps orient the way the firm intends to move its business toward a positive contribution to society, and for some, toward becoming a Company with a Mission”, explains Maud Roggia, Marketing and Development Manager at the Des Enjeux et des Hommes consulting firm.
TAKING THE FIRST STEPS: THE ISO 26000: 2010
Published in 2010, this standard differs from other well-known ISO standards. ISO 26000 contains no requirements; therefore, it does not lead to certification. The product of an international consensus crafted after 5 years of negotiations among more than 500 experts from around 100 countries, ISO 26000 offers a framework, with guidelines that help firms translate the principles of CSR into concrete initiatives. ISO 26000 is not just a guide to best practices. This standard is also applied to evaluate the firm’s commitment to sustainable development and its overall performance. A genuine tool for growth, CSR is not just an alternative for a better, more sustainable world. As a driver for profitability, it is now essential for meeting our societal, environmental, and ethical challenges. Even better, it enhances a firm’s image, gives it access to new markets, and stimulates innovation. In France, CSR provides a performance gain of around 13% over firms that don’t use it, particularly when it’s part of a deliberate effort, rather than required measures. (2)
By Dominique Demoinet-Hoste – DLD Consultant for Interfilière Paris
(1)“Strength of purpose” study conducted in 2020 on 75 brands and 8000 consumers in the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, France, China, India, Singapore, and Malaysia
(2) France Stratégie study conducted of 8500 French firms in 2016