CSR: family businesses are looking at their raison d'être


The new generation of family shareholders advocate a more proactive approach to social responsibility, in particular by pushing the company to adopt a raison d'être. An approach that requires an alignment of visions.

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Faced with growing demands from consumers and civil society, companies have understood that they need to deploy a proactive approach to social responsibility .

Moving from discourse to commitments in order to build a sustainable future for future generations is part of the DNA of family businesses. Their model, which favors responsible ownership and long-term performance, makes them concerned about their environment , their employees and customers. Today, the arrival of new generations of family shareholders is accelerating this process .

" The new generations are keen to preserve the identity of the family business ," assures Johan Gaulin, EY associate lawyer in charge of the family business market for France. They clearly push to accelerate the reflection and transformation around social responsibility in all its facets . Family businesses seek, among other things, to reduce their impact on the environment, strengthen the well-being of their employees, promote diversity and strengthen ties with consumers. They explore new ways of working and governance . " This trend fundamentally joins the Anglo-Saxon notion of long-term value which will be the stake for the years to come  ”, analyzes the lawyer.

Raison d'être and intergenerational dialogue

A growing number of companies are therefore mobilizing to find unifying elements of strategy, business and sustainable development , under the demanding eye of young family workers. Unsurprisingly, the raison d'être appears to be the backbone capable of restoring meaning and strength to the two pillars of the company, which are the executive and the shareholders. "  By asking the question of its contribution to the world, the entrepreneurial family is at the heart of the reflection , insists Caroline Mathieu, general delegate of the Family Business Network (FBN) France. Working on its project, its mission, its vision is essential to make it fruitful and pass on to the next generation its material and immaterial capital."

Defining the raison d'être requires real dialogue between shareholders, in order to ensure that it is more than a piece of language. In the absence of unity and an aligned vision of the family shareholders, the company takes the risk of a reason for being deceptive, even which would risk blocking future developments. This alignment is all the more necessary if the raison d'être is written into the statutes: it then acts as a strategic filter that guides the decisions of the board of directors . This choice of inclusion in the company's articles of association must therefore be carefully considered. Not only to make sure to allocate the necessary means, but above all to check the alignment between the vision of the family and the strategy of the family.

Become a business with a mission?

Certain family groups have not hesitated to push their commitment further to the service of the common good, by transforming themselves into a business with a mission . This provision of the Pacte law allows companies to modify their corporate purpose by including their raison d'être , the formulation of their mission as well as quantified objectives and monitoring indicators. Even if at this stage, there is little perspective on this new status, family groups like Yves Rocher or Léa Nature have taken the plunge. Forerunners in this area, their managers are pioneers by initiating a significant turning point in the history of their family business. See you in a few years to assess the effects of the application of this statute on the sustainability of family businesses and on the success of the intergenerational transmission of these businesses.

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