Two years after the PACTE law, companies with a mission are developing. Can we speak of a basic trend? Has the health crisis had an impact? What role can employees and managers play in this context? The analysis of Emery Jacquillat, president of the Business Community at Mission and CEO of Camif.
Where are the companies with a mission?
We passed the bar of 500 companies with a mission, at the beginning of 2022. This is a very good dynamic: it is four times more than last year, at the same period. Bearing in mind that in the USA, the “benefit corporations”, which have existed for more than 10 years, do not exceed the number of 500, and that in Italy, the “società benefit”, which have existed for 5 years, number 1,500. In France, we should exceed 2,022 companies with a mission by 2023.
The Community of Businesses with a Mission was created in 2018, before the PACTE law (which dates from 2019), by a small group of business leaders who had experimented with this model, and researchers who had theorized it under the name of “company with an extended social purpose”. Having experimented with the Camif, we realized that this model was rich, because it truly transforms the company. By including a purpose in the statutes, translating it into mission objectives, feeding a roadmap, and setting up dedicated governance. This is the most suitable system for a manager wishing to make his company contributory, and move from a CSR centered on commitments of responsibility, to a model of positive impact.
The implementing decrees for the PACTE law came out in 2020; we know that the transition to a mission-based company takes time for an organization. The path is long ; the definition of the raison d’être and that of the mission objectives can take 12 to 18 months to the company, because one questions for that the collaborators, the suppliers, the actors of the territory. The first companies with a mission appeared fairly quickly, but they were pioneers who were already well under way. But what we are seeing now is the wave of those who started their work 12 to 18 months ago, and the momentum is really there.
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Can we speak of a trend for the future, in this particular period marked by the health crisis?
One would have thought that with the pandemic, companies have other, more pragmatic and short-term priorities. But we realize that the crisis has been an accelerator, beyond the PACTE law: it has accelerated the awareness of managers of the importance of making their companies more useful, and of being able to prove the usefulness of their organizations in the eyes of citizens, consumers, customers and their own employees.
The level of requirement also increased during the crisis; today, to attract young talent, retain the best in the company and gain customer loyalty, the company must be able to say how it contributes to the common good, and demonstrate its social, societal and environmental commitments. The desire to take action was favored by this particular period, while forced telework reinforced the need to clarify the meaning, the reason for being together. When returning to the office, many companies took the opportunity to reflect on this purpose, to bring teams together and get them thinking about what their organization could contribute.
The current dynamic affects all types of companies, of all sizes and in all sectors. Whether large organizations, SMEs, family companies, SSE structures, cooperatives, mutuals or listed companies. Whether they evolve in services, finance or industry. And every company has a role to play and to gain by clarifying its raison d’être. I am convinced that this is a powerful lever for transforming society, and that it is an opportunity for companies to take up current social, societal and environmental issues. They must assume their important role in this framework, take their responsibilities in their societal role, by defining their raison d’être and by getting actively involved.
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What role should employees and managers play in companies with a mission, and those wishing to become one?
Within companies with a mission, employees have a decisive role to play. Because they often participate in the development of the raison d’être and the mission objectives, so as not to be disconnected from the practices of the company. And also because they implement and operationally translate the mission objectives. Unlike CSR, which can be a department of the company, the mission is at the heart of its practices, its economic model and its offer. It is up to managers to regularly remind them of the company’s mission, to grasp the roadmap and translate it into operational actions. The mission, well defined, simplifies their task, because it constitutes for them a compass to follow; but it is up to them to make the link between daily actions (operations) and the mission.
When the company is not yet a company with a mission, and the manager wants it to become one, there again, employees and managers have an important role. It should be emphasized that this process of transformation towards this model of positive impact can only come from the leader; but that he cannot initiate it alone. It is a collective project, and in most cases, a certain number of managers are mobilized; committed managers, who want to give meaning back to the company, and who will carry the approach (particularly within small extended groups, where they rub shoulders with experts, suppliers, HRDs and managers).
We also often see executives and managers who exert pressure, on their own, from within, for the company to transform itself into a company with a mission. They are called “corporate activists”, or “corporate hackers”. At Suez, for example, a small group of committed managers and employees has been formed and is calling for the transition to this mission-driven business model; that is, clarifying what all members of the organization do together and what they can have an impact on. They move their businesses from within, because they look for meaning in their work; until their leaders end up taking charge of the transformation process towards this new model.