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Impact & CSR labels: should we go for it or not?

4 questions to Marie-Gabrielle Sorin, Impact Operating Partner @Ring Capital & Founder @WeEngage, to navigate in the jungle of labels

There are many CSR labels: how to deal with them?

Indeed, there are many different labels. However, we can differentiate three main categories:

1/the generalist ones such as Engagé RSE, Lucie, Bcorp, EcoVadis,etc., which are aimed at all types of companies with a global approach to corporate responsibility;

2/the thematic labels, which highlight a company’s best practices (Great Place To Work for HR, or the Responsible Digital Label for digital, etc.);

3/Sector-based labels, with audits and requirements adapted to each sector (construction, viticulture, finance, food, etc.).

There is therefore a first choice to make: do I want to include my entire company in a global progress approach or do I want to work on and promote a specific activity such as employer branding, fair trade, responsible digital technology, responsible purchasing?

Answering a label is demanding and takes time. So, is it useful or a waste of time?

There has been a real boom in CSR labels in recent months. Companies want — and need — to provide their stakeholders with an objective proof of their responsibility and their positive contribution to society. Labels, as a “quality guarantee”, are very useful for this, especially for the employer brand but also for customer communication, even if CSR labels are still little known by the public.

But they also allow us to benchmark ourselves with other companies and to evaluate our maturity on these subjects thanks to the audit. They also allow you to have a concrete approach, through action, and to discover good practices. And finally, a label is a good tool for progress. We know where we are starting from and we can see where we can be better.

But a label remains a label (i.e. a list of good practices), so it should not replace the need to work on one’s vision, one’s responsibility, one’s value to society and one’s impact strategy. For this more holistic view, the “mission-based company” approach is more accurate.

So, how to choose between a CSR label or a mission-driven company?

This is a question that many companies ask about. The good news is that you don’t have to choose! In fact, these are two different approaches, but they are very complementary.

The mission-driven company is not a label (nor a status) but a quality that the company can use to show its social utility and its contribution to its stakeholders.Any company can become a mission-driven company, but to do so, it must define its raison d’être and major commitments, written into its bylaws, and create a Mission Committee.

Being loyal to our mission commitment is often compared to a “compass” that allows the company to focus on all its business choices.

It is also probably the surest way to reconcile growth and positive impact, in a relevant way and over time.

An asset or a barrier to growth for your company?

An asset! Without hesitation.

These steps are demanding, it’s true. It will push you in your tracks, highlight your shortcomings. It will also force you to progress quickly on the essential points, to better understand the real needs of your stakeholders. It will require time spent, formalization and probably some renunciations or reorientations; but I have never seen a company lose growth points in the long term, far from it!

These approaches — when done right — are business assets: market opportunities, talent attraction and retention, cost savings, brand reinforcement, competitive advantage…

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Empower tech entrepreneurs to build a better tomorrow, where business performance and sustainability coexist.

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Colette

Colette

Ecosystem Manager @Ring Capital

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