Sustainable Innovation

Best Practices : Conclusions II

French Industry Testing the Waters with Sustainable Innovation.

What is the role of Corporate Responsability in French entreprises ?

Corporate Philanthrophy is wide-spread Many French enterprises have their ‘Mécanat’ or Foundations. They contribute to the  international community with projects in culture, research, sports. Projects of choice seem not always to have a relation with the Company Strategy. Foundations tend to perform at an arm-lengths distance of the mother company.

Risk Management becomes common : Most large French companies have now implemented practices to comply to environmental and social norms set by international organisations, national government or industry sector organisations. Many companies participate in environmental audits. Main reasons are of a defensive kind: Avoiding negative publicity and keeping a positive corporate image. Examples are the UN Global Compact , ten United Nations principles for human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, the UN Global Reporting Initiative or ‘GR3’a s guidelines for transparent, accessible and comparable socio-environmental reports.

Corporate Responsibility increasingly seen as an opportunity. The Risk Management activities help companies to become aware of environmental, social and economic impact. This creates a starting point for developing concepts of improvement. However, innovation flourishes only then, when there is an Emphasis on Opportunity. The 3rd level of CR. Here, Sustainable Development becomes embedded in Corporate Strategy.

3 layers model with emphasis on opportunity

Innovation flourishes when CR is seen as an ’Opportunity’,  inspirered by the model of Porter and Kramer, 2006 (1).

Innovation on Customers Request. The interviewed Directors Sustainable Development recognize that customers ask for sustainable solutions. Sustainable solutions are now labelled as part of the competitive advantage. Soon, however, customers will no longer accept any products of which the origin can not be traced, the carbon footprint is not known, the energy use can not be measured, etcetera..

Evolution or Revolution ? Incremental innovation can change the business.  Products become more efficient and performing.  At the very same time complete new businesses are being created, within corporate companies as well as through start ups. Both developments should be encouraged. Question is : Do we need a Revolution ?


Eugène Delacroix (1830) (2)

Sources : 1. ‘Strategy & Society : The link between competative advantage and corporate social responsability’, by M. Porter and M. Kramer in Harvard Business Review, 12/06 and 2. Peinture of Eugene Delacroix (1830), ‘La liberté guidant le peuple‘,  Louvre Paris.


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