What is the level of ESG commitment from start-ups?

Posted on October 10, 2022 at 8:15 am

What are the ESG practices of start-ups? This is the question that Edhec Empreendedores tries to answer with Estação F, to understand how startups integrate environmental, social and governance factors within their organization.

Unsurprisingly, the subject is more than fashionable and the overwhelming majority of the surveyed start-ups (especially young start-ups) say they are convinced of the importance of these issues and 59% say they already have measures in place .

The most popular continue to be actions on human resources (quality of life at work, training, diversity), then the question of the economic model that integrates responsible elements from the beginning: ecodesign, virtuous distribution method, etc.

Topics frequently suggested by start-up stakeholders. For half of them, this is especially the case for their customers (21%), then their partners (15%), and finally their employees.

On the BtoC solutions side, consumers continue to be powerful agents of change. For the BtoB, “the contracts of large groups usually impose ESG clauses on their suppliers”, says Justine Soudier, director of Edhec Empreendimentos. And to add: “certain start-ups may not have gotten around ESG without it. »

Among the most cited benefits is the recruitment and retention of talent (41%). In another Edhec survey, 77% of the aforementioned Grandes Écoles students consider that the social impact of a company will be a decisive criterion when choosing a job.

At Famileo, a start-up aimed at seniors and their families, the start-up launched a foundation earlier this year to finance projects on aging well. The company also offers pro bono services to Little Sisters of the Poor and nursing homes. “When you work on this with your teams, it clearly gives meaning,” says Armel de Lesquen, the co-founder.

The director of Edhec Empreendedores wants to be optimistic and believes that the voluntarism of young shoots is present, also driven by investors. “We observe that venture capital funds are among the spearheads of the movement in the ecosystem. Incubators still have a lot to do to support youth projects,” he says.

Lack of resources

More than half of the nuggets surveyed say they are faced with a lack of resources (58%) or do not “know where to start”. The issue of resources is especially significant among more mature start-ups. “The younger the company, the cheaper and slower it will be to implement the criteria. The more the start-up grows, the more the ESG debt increases”, underlines Justine Soudier. The lesson to be learned? Include these criteria from the birth of the business.

At Kenko, for example, a new insurance broker born at the beginning of 2022, entrepreneurs integrated from the beginning the issue of redistributing 80% of the profits from insurers to subscribers, thanks to a kind of kitten dedicated to health and well-being. be. .

“We don’t have an ESG background, but intuition and a desire to do well,” says Arthur Maximin, the co-founder. “The challenge is to get a specialized person, who challenges us”, continues the entrepreneur, who is looking for an “independent and without pecuniary interest” person to integrate his board of directors.

There is still work to be done to evangelize all the offspring. On the brakes, 1 in 4 start-ups mention lack of information and return on investment from ESG. One in five consider these factors a “distraction”.


The survey was carried out in March 2022, with partners, incubators and investment funds. It was carried out with 205 French start-ups, all sectors combined. 7% of companies did not raise funds, 61% raised seed funds, 32% achieved grade A or higher.

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