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Corporate Social Responsability (CSR): First, a Commitment

Corporate social responsibility, or CSR, has become a major subject over the last few years. It is defined as the way in which businesses, acting on a voluntary basis, incorporate social, environmental, and ethical concerns into their economic activities as well as into their interactions with all stakeholders, whether the latter are internal (executives, employees, shareholders, etc.) or external (suppliers, clients, etc.)

CRS needs disclosure

The 2008 financial crisis led many experts and leaders to call for stronger CSR, both as an opportunity to rethink the business model of the 21st century, and to bring about new dynamics of sustainable, inclusive growth reconciling the requirements of competitiveness and social responsibility. In recent years, national legislations making disclosure of extra-financial information mandatory for large firms and investors together with the development of labels, have become a strong engine for CSR and SRI in all OECD countries. In Northern Europe for example, Sweden made sustainability reporting mandatory in 2009 for stateowned companies and Denmark did so in 2010 for large companies. Yet there is heterogeneity as some other countries base their reporting obligations on a voluntary and not mandatory basis, as in Germany for instance. France is an early example of mandatory CSR reporting, as all French listed companies are required to disclose ESG information since 2001, and all large companies must do so since 2011.

Economic and financial Performance: an average gap of 13%

Parallel to this movement, in the academic literature also, a considerable attention has been given to the analysis of the determinants of CSR and especially the relationship between CSR and financial performance. In France for instance, an original analysis carried out about 8,500 French businesses with at least 10 employees (including SMEs), across several dimensions that make up CSR (environment and ethics, human resources, client relationships, and supplier relationships) show that an average gap of 13% in economic and financial performance is observed between businesses that put CSR practices in place and those that do not, ranging from 5% for client relationships to 20% for the “human resources” dimension.

It is interesting to note that high-performing businesses appear to seek complementarity between CSR practices rather than a simple accumulation of best practices, following a qualitative approach aimed at choosing good synergies and overall consistency, rather than a purely quantitative approach , a trend which is similar to companies in European and other OECD countries (Crifo, Diaye & Pekovic, 2016; Benhamou, Diaye & Crifo, 2016; Cavaco & Crifo, 2014, 2015). This phenomenon is not limited to listed firms, the private equity industry has also witnessed an increasing concern for CSR in the past decade, with companies having a lot to lose from socially irresponsible practices (Crifo, Forget & Teyssier, 2015; Crifo and Forget, 2012).

References:

Benhamou S., Diaye MA., Crifo P. 2016. RSE et compétitivité. Evaluation et approche stratégique. Etude France Stratégie. 150 pages Cavaco S., Crifo P. 2014. CSR and Financial Performance: Complementarity between Environmental, Social and Business Behaviours. Applied Economics. 46(27): 3323-3338.

Crifo P., Diaye MA., Pekovic, S. 2016. CSR related management practices and Firm Performance: An Empirical Analysis of the Quantity- Quality Trade-off on French Data. International Journal of Production Economics. 171( 3): 405–416. Crifo P., Forget V., Teyssier S. 2015. The Price of Environmental, Social and Governance Practices Disclosure: An experiment with professional private equity investors. Journal of Corporate Finance. 30: 168-194.

Crifo P., Forget V. 2012. Think global, invest responsible: why the private equity industry goes green. Journal of Business Ethics. 116(1): 21-48.