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The Pacte law offered us the company with a mission: a nugget, a formidable lever of innovation and growth for those who go until the end of the year. Unfortunately, the message is confused by the loud voices of those who cling to the early stages (when they don’t just stop at the ad effects). Explanations and use cases.

Amid the Grave Diggers scandal, the Orpea and Korian groups announced this winter their intention to become “mission-based companies”.

It’s hard not to see this as a counterfire and the hasty search for a miracle solution, even before accepting your mistakes. These steps revive the risk of “Laundering with Purpose”, the dark side of all goodwill labels.

Also read: CSR at the heart of new sovereign digital challenges

And it’s a shame, because the Pacte 2019 law represents a real opportunity to transform your business and attract the best employees. In essence, the company with a mission paints, in many ways, a portrait of the company of the future. More than 600 French companies have already become “on a mission”, with some frankly inspiring case studies, starting with Camif, a pioneer of the genre.

1. Purpose and company with mission are not labels

It all starts with a law – and the spirit of the Pacte law is not to reduce the company to the exclusive pursuit of profit, but to help it have a positive impact on our social and environmental issues.

The system is often presented as a three-stage rocket: first CSR, then adopting a reason for being, and finally moving to quality as a company with a mission.

Company size

Photo credit: The Community of Businesses with a Mission

Only the third level presents solid guarantees of real transformations with a long-term vision. Companies with a mission, in fact, change their statutes to include their raison d’être, their social and environmental objectives, but also the procedures for monitoring the achievement of these objectives.

For companies with more than 50 employees, an internal mission committee monitors the progress of the mission. And an independent third-party organization also issues an opinion, at least every two years.

This report must remain public for 5 years. And attention: any citizen can request the commercial court to withdraw the status of company with a mission if the objectives are not achieved.

A business with a mission is not a status like a co-op. Not a label like B-Corp (170 companies labeled in France), which validates an existing one. Mission is a quality that concerns the future and not the present.

Increasingly numerous and varied examples

In early 2020, Slip Français faced a bad buzz and sanctioned two employees for racist acts (blackfaces). A few months later, the brand announced that it had become a company with a mission. We could also see a counterfire and yet this change validated a long-standing commitment (2022) in favor of “Made in France. The brand has just won the B-Corp seal in the first half of 2022.

Another example, this time in technology: Tehtris is a start-up specializing in cybersecurity. It announced last April that it became the first company in the sector to join the still restricted club of companies with a mission.

number of companies

Photo credit: The Community of Businesses with a Mission

ESN Octo has been certified by B-Corp since April 2021. It is also classified as a “Great Place to Work” and is currently finalizing its raison d’être.

It is not forbidden to multiply initiatives!

Today, more than 600 French companies are companies with a mission. The latest Specialized Observatory barometer (March 2022) tells us that progress is fast: 207 at the end of 2019, 505 at the end of 2021…

Among the motivations of these companies is the fact of attracting talent.

An indisputable benefit, but not the only one.

2. “Innovation is born under pressure”

“The first benefit of the company with a mission, in my opinion, is strategic: we give ourselves a structure that guides all our future decisions. It is a guide to the future. We offer ourselves a compass”, explains Aurélie Ghemouri Krief, from the consultancy Plein Sens, who accompanies her clients on the way to the company with a mission.

“A text of law is never enough to trigger a movement”, he recalls. The Covid-19 crisis has raised questions of meaning. The great social challenges lead companies to position themselves on these issues. But when you have a mission, you arbitrate each choice in light of your basic goals. It is the backbone of the company. And the mission is also a source of employee commitment in search of meaning and clarity. »

An opinion shared by Vivien Pertusot, author of La Machine à sens, a newsletter dedicated to “model” companies. Vivien is a former member of BPI France, where she co-signed the guide “Getting a Purpose, moving from a company to a mission”

He is also a “Harmonist,” a profession envisioned by Patrick Vignaud, founder of B-Harmonist, which offers business leaders the opportunity to activate “the underutilized lever of corporate culture.”

The two men are convinced of one thing: the company of the future is a company with a mission. Patrick still quotes Larry Fink, the head of Blackrock, the world’s largest fund manager: “Without a clear goal, no company can reach its full potential… makes a positive contribution to society. »

The company with a mission is, therefore, a way of consolidating the business itself. “I’m convinced of that,” Patrick continues. A leader who is not interested in the subject is depriving himself of a great opportunity for growth and innovation. Because when you impose restrictions on yourself, at the same time you give yourself the opportunity to innovate. »

Translating contribution to social issues into economic results

It is not Emery Jacquillat, in charge of Camif, who will say otherwise. The entrepreneur relaunched the business in 2009 and did so by working on Camif’s impact on society – long before the law came into force. Then – after validating the relevance of the model at home – he founded the mission-oriented business community.

“It took two and a half years to get the two sentences out of our raison d’être, because we questioned all stakeholders a lot (suppliers, players in the territory, etc.), but it was worth it”, he says.

Emery convinced shareholders (“Without them, you won’t do much”) and made clear choices that completely repositioned Camif and transformed the way it works. Responsible consumption, Made in France, development of local employment… We are far from the old brand of “retired teachers”.

The process involves a number of waivers. “You have to accept a short-term burden on financial or business performance. It is a long term investment. But this contribution to social issues always ends up translating into economic performance. It remains to dare. »

Creation date

Photo credit: The Community of Businesses with a Mission

Among the concrete objectives that Camif has proposed is this: “to make the circular economy our standard”. “This forces us to review our entire offering,” explains Emery. It is here that we realize how much it is a lever for innovation and differentiation with the competition. We develop our own collections. We could no longer rely solely on manufacturers and their goodwill. This takes time. We launched the first mattress made entirely from recycled old mattresses last year, 4 years after we came up with the idea. But we are getting there, and today we have 80% of new customers: we are really going to win them over. »

Camif also stood out by boycotting Black Friday in 2017. The director recalls: “We touch on a dogma, that of growth and revenue, by depriving ourselves of the best day of the year. . Since then… we have achieved a growth of 40% in 4 years. Show that it’s possible. And to go further: tomorrow, I believe that companies that have not made social commitments, nor have proven their ability to fulfill them, will have difficulty finding financing. There is a kind of urgency to commit: it is part of the leader’s responsibility. »

At Plein Sens, Aurélie Ghemouri Krief confirms that “mission” rhymes with “innovation”: “It is without a doubt the best vector of innovation: giving up on creating value in the name of mission forces us to look for it elsewhere. born under pressure. And the approach enables dialogue between shareholders, managers and employees: it restores strength to this triptych. »

Aurélie now wants the law of the Pact to grow, to be transposed at European level. “France is a pioneer. There is real interest in extending this approach beyond our borders. I would like us to achieve a European contributory business model. »

3. A path that requires sincerity and perseverance

We understand that becoming a company with a mission is not a long, calm river. There is no need to expect short-term benefits. And certainly not in terms of communication: your employees, as well as your customers, will not be fooled. Expectations will be created and it is easy to disappoint them. On the other hand, they will follow you if you are sincere and persistent. “It’s not a magic wand and pre-existing difficulties won’t go away. But you will be better equipped for the shocks to come”, underlines Aurélie Ghemouri Krief.

“Go ahead now, because the stakes will rise – and regulatory obligations too, confirms Vivien Pertusot. We have seen this in recent years: the pressure is increasing both on environmental issues and on anti-waste laws, on the professional equality index, etc. The “Name and Shame” can happen very quickly. The pioneers of the company with a mission have demonstrated the value, such as Camif of course, but also Aigle, which is transferring a production unit to France, or even Alenvi, which wants to revolutionize the sector of helping people and decided to start with “treat” caregivers well, to the point of opening a second company to train them properly. »

“If you have toxic management, it’s no use writing a beautiful purpose. »

“Formalizing your raison d’être and your KPIs requires introspection,” concludes Patrick Vignaud. Many don’t like it: it doesn’t seem operational enough for them. You have to find a happy compromise between the rush and excessive slowness that occurs when you consult too widely, or when the decision-making process is unclear. Companies rarely test their mission. However, they would be interested in this: a mission doesn’t change every six months. »

Last big pitfall: meaning is not enough. “If you have toxic management, it’s no use writing a beautiful purpose. »

“Some companies ask each of their departments to state their mission objectives and create a financial incentive for the exercise to be taken seriously,” notes Vivien Pertusot.

Today, when Phenix or Castalie posts a job offer, they get hundreds of responses. Same thing at Camif, located in Niort, far from being a major center of attraction. To get there, you get the idea: count several months of work and a few years to reap the benefits and prepare for the future.

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