Business-association partnerships, new CSR issues

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In the context of the law of the Action Plan for Business Growth and Transformation (PACTE) enacted in April 2019, which appears to be a beginning of the realization of Social Responsibility for business, the associative world and the business world tend to come closer. In particular, incorporating into Article 1833 of the Civil Code, which states that “society is managed in its social interest, taking into account the social and environmental issues of its activity”, the PACTE law introduces “mission enterprises”. In a non-coercive way, managers and entrepreneurs now have the opportunity to incorporate a social or environmental objective into their company’s statutes.

The redesigned company figure

The market economy has demonstrated its ability to renew itself by offering ever more diverse business models: social and solidarity enterprise is an example. However, the widely shared conception of the company is that of an organization focused on generating profits, yet the societal commitment of companies leads to redefining their status, their vision and their missions. However, many concerns are emerging about the emergence of the concept of “mission society”. Firstly by the legal vagueness that he introduces among the many forms of business in France. Second, because it induces confusion between the lucrative and the non-profit. According to Michel CAPRON, Emeritus Professor of Management Sciences at the University of Paris 8 who recently signed an opinion piece in Le Monde on this subject, this device could harm the associative world and the SSE sector more generally by referring “CSR to a narrow and utilitarian managerial conception”. However, in the face of these many voices rising, it is relevant to question the models of convergence between companies and associations.

The springs of the societal utility of partnerships between associations and companies

Contrary to popular belief, the social economy developed during the industrial revolution to meet the needs of entrepreneurs to pool resources in a framework of mutual aid and solidarity, which was then misunderstood by the public authorities. The law of 31 July 2014 came only very late consecrated the existence of the social and solidarity economy. Partnerships between associations and companies can be seen as an innovative response to issues of collective interest.

According to a study carried out in 2015 by the Radiation of Associations by the Patronage of Enterprises, Administration and University. Business-association partnerships tend to reconcile the general interest with private interests in order to match the expectations of civil society with the socio-economic aims of companies. Business-association partnerships come in four categories that reflect different levels of involvement. Thus, the partnership between companies and associations can focus on patronage, societal innovation, economic cooperation and responsible practices. The partnership between Rainett, a company specializing in environmental cleaning products and respectOcean, which fights ocean pollution and plastic waste, is a testament to this somewhat special collaboration between industrial ecology and the blue economy. By becoming a member of the Respect Ocean network, Rainett joins an ecosystem of economic actors committed to the protection of the oceans. Rainett’s involvement in the oceans makes his vision of the organization consistent. For example, the brand offers 100% recyclable packaging, without microplastics that are Ecolabel certified. It also works for eco-design innovation, through its multiple partnerships with the Surfrider Foundation Europe and the Foundation for Biodiversity Research. For example, Rainett takes a comprehensive CSR approach as it also includes a skills exchange and joint innovation. With this in mind, RespectOcean and Rainett spoke at the “Ocean, Common Good of Humanity” conference at the exhibition La Mer XXL in Nantes on 3 July.

By setting up business-association partnerships, CSR is based on an endogenous logic, which starts from the company’s activity to reduce its negative effects but also exogenously in order to create positive externalities with the joint action of associations. Driven by the powerful lever of commercial interests, CSR is gaining more and more weight at the corporate level. The pitfall to avoid, however, remains that these partnerships only intervene on subjects that are relevant to the company, leaving aside some problems that are central to the collective interest. This leads to confusing a company’s “raison d’être” with “brand image”.

Justine ANGIBAUD

Sources:

France Strategy, “Company-Mission” Account, July 2019

Assessment of the societal utility of partnerships associations-companies, Le Rameau, May 2015

Study of the Observatory of Philanthropy, June 2015

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