The State, a responsible economic actor, spearheads CSR

The State acts in a regulatory capacity to promote CSR, but is also aware of the spearheading impact it has as a purchaser, vendor and employer. It exercises this role directly and through businesses and institutions over which it has control. Through public tenders and publicly owned companies from the productive and services sectors, it implements another dimension of a CSR promotion policy.

In 2008, the French Government committed to an initiative aimed at effectively and gradually mainstreaming sustainable development into a functioning mode. The notion of the Exemplary State was introduced by a Prime Ministerial circular on 3 December 2008 (PESP1) and is based on tangible application of eco-responsibility and social responsibility principles. Eco-responsibility means a reduction in the volume and an improvement in the quality of public purchasing, with the goal of reducing the environmental impact and improving the energy efficiency of buildings and the implementation of reasonable professional travel and waste management policies, for example. Socially-wise, the State’s responsibility means the setting of high targets concerning the fundamental rights of people at work, integrating and maintaining disabled people in employment, the employment of long-term unemployed people, and professional gender equality.

To implement these principles, a clear strategic framework, the "exemplary administration" plan, has been defined for each administration. Secondly, there is a very effective financial incentive-disincentive instrument. Based on the principle of emulation between ministries, this system helps to share out a fund of €100 million depending on the sustainable development performances of administrations. These performances are measured using a series of indicators (18 in 2012) and are verified by the Ministry for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy which publish an annual report showing the performances of administrations and highlighting best practices.

In addition, government purchases (almost 18% of European GDP according to the European Commission) are a particularly powerful tool. Promoting social and eco-responsible suppliers, the national action plan for sustainable procurement encourages these actors to meet the standards it prescribes. This plan is updated with the improvement of the “Exemplary State device.

In their missions and operations, public bodies have to address the same energy efficiency and resource management requirements as any business, while maintaining public sector culture and values. Public bodies, which promote values and missions serving the collective interest, are thus particularly encouraged to implement strong social responsibility initiatives. It was in order to facilitate this development and to promote the exchange and research into the best approaches that the Public Establishments and Publicly Owned Companies Sustainable Development Club was set up in 2006. The Club counted 60 varied voluntary members in early 2012, including companies responsible for transport services, a company managing games, museums, autonomous ports, hospitals, universities, Chambers of Commerce and Industry, research institutes, financial establishments and social bodies. These members commit to undertake or continue a process of integration of sustainable development into their projects, operating practices and their relationships with their partners as well as with other actors in the territories in which they operate and to translate this approach in a management plan. They also work in order to develop mechanisms for reporting and regular assessments which apply to the specific context defined by their statutes.

Updated on: 12.02.13