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A new social contract is at the heart of tomorrow’s business model

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Historically, the contribution of corporations to the public good has been part of an indirect framework where the tax paid finances actions decided upon and implemented by the state. It is clear that this model built on the principle of redistributive taxation has been shaken since the first decade of the twenty-first century due to the emergence of corporate social responsibility policies, which assume additional financial corporate responsibility. But this remains the fruit of an interactive and innovative vision that the time has come to transcend this by re-establishing the company under a new social contract that fully and (supportively) integrates the company in all its economic, social and environmental environments.

Profitability: brake or engine of sustainable development?

The classical models make the firm a purely economic agent, justified and directed by the search for profit and profitability. This reading grid necessarily places the corporation on the “wrong” side of history, as opposed to the state, which is seen as a necessary and virtuous regulator, even in the character of the welfare state that became so widespread after World War II.

However, this binary opposition has outlived itself. On the other hand, because the state is finding it increasingly difficult to ensure its role in social matters (overburdened hospitals, pension reform). But also due to encountering a current polycrisis (Social as well as climatic), companies incorporate into their model, to meet the expectations of stakeholders and public opinion, but also in the name of individual convictions and honest collective commitments, increasingly strong demands and initiatives with regard to sustainable development. We must work together inside and outside the company with all partners. Because the state can no longer do everything, and companies specifically have the potential for innovation, investment and great operational efficiency. This is what needs to be mobilized, simply because a company is not just an abstract idea above ground. It only exists in the relationships you maintain with the marketplace where customers and prospects evolve, a community from which the talent they need comes from and the ecosystems that provide them with the resources they mobilize.

From the reason for existence to the reason for existence and the reason for representation

Milestones, emergence and popularization of CSR projects are part of the awareness of companies and all stakeholders of the impact generated by their activities. But if it is one thing to take on this responsibility, it is quite another to seek to prevent or overcome it.

Indeed, if companies want to “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own,” which is the founding principle of the concept of sustainable development, they cannot be satisfied with compensation. It must itself become sustainable. It is the virtuous foundation of a new social contract that can allow companies to sustainably reinvent their reason for being, not only in their reason for being, but also and above all in their reason to act.

Redefining the role of business

The company must be the bearer of a new model for society, by making sustainable development a fundamental pillar, in the same way as financial balance. Combine these two principles to establish a new social contract, which will allow the company to reach a new economic, societal and of course environmental dimension.

It is a matter of making the corporation an active agent (doer), and an integral part of society like the state, societies and individuals. A company can (again) become a place of consolidation for its employees and a positive contribution to the common good, for example through community earnings, which consist in the voluntary and free redistribution of a part of its profits to associations.

To achieve this goal, the Missionary companies It is the first step in the right direction. By publicly declaring their raison d’être and some associated SDGs, these companies, often large ones, set the course. And there is no question of false claims, because unlike CSR, companies with a completely free mission agree to be subject to external oversight. Moreover, another promising idea is that of Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE), in which firms are organized in the form of cooperatives whose operations and activities are based on solidarity and social benefit. Based on the democratic and participatory style of management, these companies prohibit individual profit, and reinvest profits in the common interest.

Column written by: Elodie Baussand, Co-Founder at Tenzing Conseil. Diversity, inclusion and mobility specialist

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