CSR in companies and respect for the environment

Corporate social responsibility or CSR covers all the measures put in place by companies to respect the rules of sustainable development at the economic, social and environmental levels.

Corporate social responsibility: what you need to know

Corporate social responsibility and environmental policy

By managing its impacts as well as possible, by applying sustainable development rules within the company, by multiplying actions to preserve its environment, the company succeeds in having a better image with its customers, in improving its competitiveness and its economic performance.

Companies committed to a CSR approach integrate, on a voluntary basis, the economic, environmental and social dimensions beyond the imposed legal framework through the implementation of good practices or new economic models.

Thus, CSR integrates the three aspects of sustainable development into the functioning of the organisation.

The fundamental principles of corporate social responsibility

CSR in business includes social, economic and environmental concerns. ISO 26000 provides further guidance. Corporate social responsibility represents the responsibility of an organisation with regard to the impact of its activities and decisions, both on society and the environment, which is reflected in ethical and responsible behaviour:

  • Carrying out a unifying project within the company;
  • Improve the company's image with its stakeholders;
  • Controlling the consumption of resources and reducing the associated environmental impact;
  • Promote dialogue and transparency through ethical business practices with interested parties.

The definition of CSR in business refers to "ethical and transparent behaviour that contributes to sustainable development". Companies seek to reconcile the search for profit with the reduction of their impact on society and the environment. They commit themselves to their responsibility towards their workers, consumers and society as a whole.

Thus, CSR allows companies to implement concrete measures to meet the specific challenges of their sector of activity through the implementation of charters or certification of the commitments made.

What type of company is concerned by CSR?

CSR concerns all types of companies, regardless of their size or sector of activity.

For some years now, large companies with more than 500 employees and unlisted companies have been required to prepare and publish their environmental and social impacts through extra-financial reporting.

A company's extra-financial reporting consists of presenting, in a transparent manner, social, societal, environmental and governance information related to its activity and its organisation to all its stakeholders.

Until now, the data published concerned the company's financial information.

However, the need to publish broader non-financial information, including social and environmental information, has been recognised. Thus, a regulatory framework has gradually developed around non-financial reporting.

The first law relating to the obligation of extra-financial reporting is the law of 15 May 2001. It was followed by the law of 12 July 2010, which structured the framework for non-financial reporting (information to be published, scope, etc.).

The decree of 24 April 2012 on the transparency obligations of companies brought new elements to non-financial reporting in terms of widening the scope of companies subject to the obligation, the information to be provided divided into three themes (social, environmental and commitments to sustainable development), the introduction of the notion of "comply" or "explain" and the information on measures taken by companies subject to verification.

Finally, the decree of 19 August 2016 integrated two new criteria into extra-financial reporting on the circular economy and actions to combat food waste, as well as on direct emissions, indirect emissions related to the energy required for the company's activities and significant emissions.

Thus, France has transposed the European directive of 22 October 2014 on the publication of non-financial information. It provides that certain large companies and groups must prepare a report on environmental, social and governance policy, its outcome in the form of key performance indicators as well as a description of the main associated risks and the way they are managed by the companies.

With the ordinance n°2017-1180 of 19 July 2017 and the decree n°2017-1265 of 9 August 2017, companies now formalise an extra-financial performance statement that includes two criteria on climate change:

  • Measures taken to adapt to the consequences of climate change;
  • Greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and the means implemented set voluntarily in the medium and long term.

The new scheme introduces a materiality and relevance approach. Companies must present specific information according to the main risks inherent in their activities and the policies implemented to respond to them, with the key indicators and associated results.

The non-financial reporting statement is addressed to the following legal entities:

  • Large companies with more than 500 employees and a balance sheet total of more than EUR 20 million or a turnover of more than EUR 40 million;
  • Unlisted companies with more than 500 employees and a balance sheet total or turnover of more than EUR 100 million;
  • Credit institutions, insurance companies, mutual insurance companies and provident institutions designated as being in the public interest, depending on their legal form and the thresholds set.

The extra-financial reporting statement presents the company's business model and covers four categories of information:

  • Social and societal impacts
  • Environmental impacts;
  • Respect for human rights; and
  • And the fight against corruption.

For the last two criteria, only listed companies and similar companies are subject to this requirement.

The non-financial reporting statement should also include the following information:

  • The climate change impact of the company's activity;
  • Societal commitments to sustainable development, the circular economy and the fight against food waste;
  • Collective agreements concluded in the company and their impact on the company's economic performance and employees' working conditions;
  • Actions to combat discrimination and promote diversity.

A description of the main risks created by the company's activity (if applicable, the risks created by its business relationships, products and services) must be provided for each category of information. For each risk identified, a description of the policies and procedures implemented and the results, including key performance indicators, is requested. If risks are identified but no policies or procedures are implemented, the company must justify the reasons.

Once the non-financial reporting statement has been drafted, it must be verified by a third party auditor.

How can environmental performance be integrated into a CSR strategy?

To take into account sustainable development in companies, AD FINE's expertise in terms of environmental performance, energy efficiency and the circular economy contributes to the company's social responsibility policy.

AD FINE supports you in the construction and implementation of your corporate CSR approach. We can also help you to enhance your CSR approach with an environmental communication. It allows you to highlight your commitments to your stakeholders, to improve your brand image and to differentiate yourself from the competition.