Stakeholders increasingly look to companies to demonstrate corporate social responsibility (CSR), giving businesses the opportunity to use this as a strategic tool to gain a competitive edge. In yesterday's plenary presentation, Nicole Notat, CEO of VIGEO, told risk managers that a growing number of companies were actively implementing CSR with diverse approaches.
Bernard Giraud, director of sustainable development and corporate social responsibility of Groupe Danone, explained the "Danone way", saying the company had a strong and original management culture with a dual commitment to business success and social responsibility. It had well established social responsibility practices, focusing on "building the honest brand", with values encompassing humanism, openness, enthusiasm and proximity.
Giraud explained the lessons learnt from the group's restructuring of its European business division involving plant closures and redundancies, and the need to tackle social implications of such decisions in advance. "A brand can be a target as well as a symbol."
He said that CSR went beyond core business for a food company like Danone. Upstream – production and trade of agricultural commodities – it involved sustainable development and ethical trade. Downstream – product marketing and consumers' changing eating habits – CSR included food safety and health. He saw the challenges ahead as involving short term/long term arbitration, circulating CSR behaviours at every company level and integrating them in practices, respecting the diversity of cultural and social contexts, and measuring results.
Notat concluded that social rating was valuable for investors and managements to assess the level of CSR enterprises had reached. Analysis and assessment encompass: human rights in work and everyday life; human resources; environment; supply chain; corporate governance, and societal involvement.