The evaluation ofThe societal impact, that is to say the influence that an organization or a project has on society, has become a major issue in France in recent decades. Indeed, businesses, non-governmental organizations, public institutions and even citizens are increasingly seeking to understand and quantify their contribution to society. This evolution is the result of a growing awareness of the importance of societal impact in decision-making, as well as a reflection on how to measure this impact more accurately and holistically.
1 - Evolution of societal impact measurement in France
1990s - The beginnings of societal impact measurement in France
The beginnings of measuring societal impact in France go back to 1990s, when businesses began to consider the impact of their activities on the environment and society. Early measurement attempts focused on specific areas such as carbon footprint, social responsibility indicators, and diversity. These measures were voluntary, leaving businesses with the flexibility to choose their priorities without government obligations. However, this volunteerism has highlighted the need for international standards and frameworks, such as OECD guidelines (first edition in 1976), to encourage responsible practices.
En 1992, the UN has defined the 3 pillars of sustainable development : economic, environmental and social. The aim was then to make States and large companies aware of how to reconcile these dimensions in the face of globally exhausted natural resources and a significant population growth since the 1950s.
2000s - The emergence of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
In the early 2000s, France experienced significant change with the introduction of CSR. The NRE law (New Economic Regulations) In 2001, companies listed on the stock exchange were required to publish information on their CSR policies, thereby initiating a growing awareness of the need to measure and report on the societal impact of businesses.
The laws resulting from Grenelle de l'Environnement in 2007 have increased pressure on businesses to encourage them to integrate the preservation of natural areas into their strategy. This is now affecting a growing number of organizations, including those with 500 employees or more. At the same time, many SMEs have adopted CSR practices to meet the increasing demands of their customers or out of conviction in favor of a fairer economy and a healthier environment.
In 2010, the ISO 26000 standard has emerged as a global tool for sustainable development. Many companies have adopted it to structure their CSR approach. In France and elsewhere in Europe, labels have been created to promote CSR practices.
2019 - The adoption of the Pacte law
The year 2019 was a major turning point in the evolution of societal impact measurement in France with the adoption of Pact law (Action Plan for Business Growth and Transformation). This law introduced The company with a mission, a new corporate status that places societal impact at the heart of its social purpose. Undertakings with mission are required to define and publish extra-financial performance indicators related to their societal mission. This advance has strengthened companies' commitment to society and their responsibility for positive impact (e.g.: B-Corp, Fair Trade, EU Ecolabel, LUCIE ...)
Years 2020 and beyond...
- Integrating societal impact into public policies
In 2020, France enacted a circular economy law promoting the reuse, recycling and sustainability of products, thereby encouraging businesses to adopt sustainable practices. In addition, the public authorities are now evaluating their own societal impact, considering the adoption of well-being indicators such as Gross Domestic Happiness (BIB) in addition to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to measure the quality of life of citizens, health, education, the environment, and other aspects of collective well-being.
- The rise of impact investing
In France, the evolution of societal impact measurement has influenced the financial sector. Over the past decade, impact investing has grown strongly, attracting investors, including funds, banks and individuals, seeking investment opportunities that are both profitable and socially or environmentally beneficial. Impact investment funds have been created to support projects linked to specific social and environmental objectives (e.g.: Amundi, Mirova, France2i ...). In addition, France has encouraged the green finance by promoting investments in environmental initiatives through the issuance of green bonds. Since 2020, listed companies in France are required to publish ESG information (environment, social, governance) in their annual reports, thus engaging them to report on their performance in terms of sustainability and societal impact.
2 - The importance of new indicators
In France, societal impact assessment goes beyond traditional indicators such as greenhouse gas emissions or turnover. Increasingly, businesses and organizations are adopting more comprehensive and nuanced indicators to measure their influence. Here are a few of these indicators.
- Social inclusion : Measuring social inclusion helps to understand the extent to which an organization creates equitable opportunities for all, including disadvantaged groups. This may include indicators such as the employment rate of minorities, access to education, and the promotion of diversity within the company.
- Diversity : Diversity in terms of gender, age, ethnicity, etc., is an important indicator of openness and equality within an organization. Diversity can encourage innovation and creativity.
- Social innovation : Businesses are increasingly looking to measure their impact in creating innovative solutions to solve social problems. This may include indicators related to the development of socially beneficial products or services.
- Quality of life at work : Assessing the quality of life at work is critical to understanding employee well-being. Satisfied employees are more productive and engaged, which can result in better overall business performance.
- Contributing to the local community : Measuring the contribution of a company to its local community makes it possible to quantify the economic, social and environmental benefits that the company brings to its immediate environment.
The integration of these new indicators allows companies to assess their societal impact more holistically, identifying improvement needs, promoting transparency towards stakeholders, and meeting increasing expectations in terms of social and environmental responsibility. This reinforces public trust and generates sustainable value for the company.
In conclusion, the evolution of societal impact measurement in France shows a significant change in the way businesses, organizations and institutions consider their role in society. New laws and regulations, as well as the adoption of more responsible management practices, are helping to reinforce the commitment to positive societal impact. Measuring this impact has become more accurate, inclusive, and global, thus reflecting a more comprehensive view of everyone's contribution to society. This heralds an era where societal impact is becoming a key indicator of success, alongside traditional financial indicators, while shaping how businesses and organizations define their success and their role in society.