For two years, the stamina of the French was seriously tested. A health situation whose evolution remains uncertain, the continuation of the war at the gates of Europe and NATO … These are the most fundamental social bonds and the hope for happier days that have been and continue to weaken. Our social contract, the foundation of French society, is, if not obsolete, at least seriously damaged between weariness and mistrust.
To redefine its terms, the economy can regenerate society by first regenerating itself. This ambition has a name: “responsible capitalism”. Capitalism 2.0, learning from its past failures, continuing to redistribute produced wealth, adopting a long-term vision and forcing itself to follow a positive environmental trajectory.
Reconnecting at work
The company is an important place, if not the most important, in everyday social life, in the “creation of society.” We devote considerable time to this and work towards a goal that is greater than just our own interests. It is therefore not surprising that economic and social relationships in the workplace are being affected by an urgent rethinking of our social paradigm.
At the same time, in essence, it is simply about the renewal of each actor’s respect for its partners, which is the only guarantee of the solidarity of the links of the same economic chain. These are good business habits that should be adopted on a daily basis: paying suppliers on time, offering more profit share and employee participation, experimenting with new ways of working and managing, giving young SMEs a chance with only an external service provider… Let’s not forget that if one link oxidizes, the whole chain is in danger of breaking!
Thus, capitalism is only responsible if the business leaders on the front lines approve of this responsibility. However, in French companies with fewer than fifty employees, optional profit sharing is now open to only 6% of employees. Here is the first axis of improvement that needs to be taken into account in order to, as Thibaut Lansade, CEO of Jouve and former vice president of Medef, put it, “reconcile the French with capital.” The blurring of the distinction between labor and capital is a powerful lever for the transformation of capitalism as we know it.
Responsible capitalism also implies the application of the new ethical principles of our society in the economic life. In this regard, legislative work can lay the groundwork, as has been done to translate into action the need to achieve concrete equality between women and men in the professional sphere or the inclusion of people with disabilities. In this sense, the new Occupational Equality Index (or Égapro Index) is a commendable measure that has recently been enhanced by a commitment to transparency in its calculation by companies in order to eliminate the persistent suspicions of falsehood generated by the current lack of transparency.
More generally, it is time to recognize, following the example of the Montaigne Institute and the Medici Committee in their 2020 report Responsible Capitalism: An Opportunity for Europe, that companies have become real places of power, reinforced by the weakening of the power of the state and other institutions of influence (church, family, etc.). d.). Let’s act on this important development by reforming the labor code to place the logic of collective bargaining directly in every economic unit, securing the primacy of company agreements for negotiations as close as possible to the needs and responsibilities of each of the parties.
Turning “wild capitalism” into “capitalism with a mission”
Along with the working relationship, which is obviously central, a whole corporate social responsibility needs to be invented. And here again, every link matters. Here we are interested in two points of view: the definition of what economic activity to finance and how to finance it. Capitalism is responsible if it sets itself goals other than simply making a profit. Therefore, to paraphrase the concept of “company with a mission” introduced into French company law by the Pacte of 2019, we must achieve true “capitalism with a mission”.
Through this lens of missions of common interest to be carried out by responsible companies, the economic activity to be supported stands out in itself. Of course, we should continue to take legitimate pride in the rise of French Tech, which includes twenty-six unicorns, technology startups worth over a billion dollars each. However, it would be deadly dangerous to settle for a digital economy that is speculative in nature, because it is also in full ingenuity, and, more generally, for an activity far removed from the real economy, because euphoria can quickly turn into disappointment. A French example of a dream turning into a nightmare, Toulouse startup Sigfox, 300 employees and former leader of the Internet of Things, is now looking for a buyer after a dizzying descent into hell after losing the trust of venture capitalists. . .
Along with this new economy, as promising as it is changing, our responsibility is to rebuild a strong manufacturing economy, infused with modern societal values: energy efficiency, eco-design, know-how preservation. The reindustrialization of our country must be long-term, low-carbon, based on our territories and, wherever possible, using local talent. Respect only for these values guarantees a significant added value of our products, especially for export.
Ensuring the emergence of new industry flagships can only be achieved by carefully rethinking how we invest. “Wild capitalism” has divorced investment from reality, so it’s time to bring the interests of the shareholder in line with the interests of the company. Build a business especially industry, is a matter of long time, which cannot be constantly interrupted by the race for profitability and dividends. When faced with activist funds determined to liquidate know-how in order to pocket their profits quickly, responsible and long-term equity ownership should be preferred. Since capitalism on a mission is not unbridled capitalism, it is the state that must create favorable conditions for this sustainable investment, a structure that offers, in particular, investors the opportunity to participate in innovative projects and allows companies to finance themselves through crowdfunding simplicity.
Other actors, public or private, may join the game. French banks have to learn from their German counterparts, who are far more likely to buy stakes in promising companies to back them up without looking for immediate profitability. Chambers of Commerce and Industry can also actively participate in this behavioral upheaval by selecting and promoting companies that bring significant added value to their territory and meet environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria, demonstrating their social commitment.
The offensive of responsible capitalism, focused on non-financial issues, is far from being a utopia or an alibi, it is possible and even necessary. It must be mastered first and foremost by entrepreneurs, the vanguards of innovation and audacity. I bet they can take over their duties here again, as a good number of them already do. Let’s think in this sense of Emmanuel Faber, the symbolic captain of the industry, who for seven years led food giant Danone in light of this CSR principle. Let’s also remember the “Manifesto for a New Value Sharing” written and signed by business leaders who are members of the Institute for Responsible Capitalism in response to its dismissal in March 2021 to defend their vision of the economic world. more than anything. More than ever in these troubled times, let us know how to reinvent our way of producing, working and living through our work, unite, form a society together through trust and mutual respect.
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