Publié le 6 Septembre 2015

A l'occasion de notre point annuel dédié aux Pratiques managériales, sur le thème « PME de croissance et RSE : Enjeux et bonnes pratiques de communication », Renaud Redien-Collot, Président du Conseil Scientifique de Women Equity et Directeur des Relations internationales de Novancia, nous livre les principales conclusions de son enquête sur la communication RSE des PME, saluée par le prix Arlotto de la Conférence de l'Académie de l'Entrepreneuriat

Renaud Redien-Collot, Président du Conseil Scientifique de Women Equity et Directeur des Relations internationales de Novancia

Diplômé d’un doctorat en sociologie du genre de l’Université de Columbia, Renaud Redien-Collot est spécialiste de pédagogie entrepreneuriale et des enjeux de genre dans l’entrepreneuriat, Professeur et Directeur des Affaires Internationales de Novancia, l’école de l’entrepreneuriat de la Chambre de commerce de Paris. Il a fondé le Master d’entrepreneuriat de Novancia en 2005. Expert européen FEDER INTERREG IVC, coordinateur général de la cartographie des actions de sensibilisation entrepreneuriale dans l'UE (ENSPIRE EU), il est également expert européen et coorganisateur du "European Project on gender and Entrepreneurship" (WEEU).

 

Renaud Redien-Collot, Président du Conseil Scientifique de Women Equity et Directeur des Relations internationales de Novancia
Renaud Redien-Collot, Président du Conseil Scientifique de Women Equity et Directeur des Relations internationales de Novancia

Abstract (français)

Si l’on observe une grande variété des pratiques, les dirigeantes interrogées révèlent que leurs démarches RSE visent prioritairement leurs employés en les engageant à respecter mais également à aller au-delà des normes de sécurité et de qualité. Ces dirigeantes cherchent ainsi à enrichir les standards RSE de leurs secteurs. Ce faisant, elles identifient des enjeux sociaux et sociétaux pertinents répondant aux préoccupations de leurs employés et susceptibles de les motiver sur le long terme.

Dans ce contexte, elles développent une approche pragmatique de la RSE qui fait fond de l’acquis et adoptent une perspective expérimentale et interactive lorsqu’il s’agit d’intégrer de nouvelles pratiques. Elles se montrent patientes dans l’articulation stratégique qu’elles donnent aux différentes composantes RSE de leur entreprise.

Si notre étude fait le constat de nombreuses initiatives en matière de RSE, nous avons pu établir que les dirigeantes interrogées ne communiquent pas ou peu sur ce sujet, en particulier via le site de l’entreprise. Ce faisant, la valorisation des actions menées ne s’inscrit pas ou peu dans une démarche véritable de de communication intégrée à la stratégie globale de l’entreprise.

Cette formalisation prudente du discours s’explique pour plusieurs raisons : d’une part, l’accent est porté sur l’efficience de l’approche RSE au détriment du discours, en privilégiant avant tout les actions concrètes. D’autre part, elles jugent qu’il est nécessaire d’adopter un discours prudent lorsque les pratiques ne sont pas assez matures, ou qu’elles doivent au préalable être assimilées en interne.

Enfin et dans une certaine mesure, elles font face à des questions de légitimité : en tant que dirigeantes amenées à adopter une vision d’ensemble sur les activités de leur entreprise, les répondantes ont le sentiment de ne pas avoir d’expertise et d’expérience suffisante de la RSE pour consolider ce qui est déjà fait. En même temps, elles savent s’appuyer sur leurs réseaux pour mettre en perspective ce qui est nécessaire et ce qui pourrait se révéler stratégiquement avantageux. Toutefois, elles savent que les milieux avertis en RSE attendent beaucoup des femmes et ne veulent pas jouer le rôle de celles qui font toujours mieux que leurs homologues masculins.

Finalement, nous pouvons affirmer que la RSE est unanimement perçue comme un levier de développement et de croissance par les dirigeantes. Au-delà des normes et de la législation, la communication RSE est mobilisée comme étant vectrice de sens et contribue à la stratégie globale autant en interne qu’en externe, dans une optique pragmatique de valorisation progressive auprès des employés et parties prenantes. 

Abstract (english)

This study has a number of limitations. The sample is limited by the restricted number of French women entrepreneurs of which it is composed, all of them selected from the 2013 WEG CSR Trophy. Our approach compares the involvement in CSR of a number of firms operating in very different sectors. Not all questions about the risks associated with involvement in CSR for women entrepreneurs who are leaders in their sectors are addressed. according to which women have a substantial capacity to listen and pacify

In contrast with the arguments developed by Doz and Kosonen and Fassin in the first decade of the century, the interviewees’ discourse and initiatives reveal that they see in CSR an important lever for their firms’ sustainability and growth. However, they restrict the formalization of their beliefs in CSR. Only a third of the firms in the sample published formalized communication on their websites. Formalized communication is slightly more common within the firm; 40-45% of interviewees communicate with employees by means of a newsletter; internal and external perception surveys of the firm’s activity; general assemblies; and meetings incorporating a certain amount of information about CSR initiatives. Nevertheless, only four firms use CSR factors as strategic indicators. For many, CSR is, above all, integrated into quality control approaches designed either to meet sectorial or professional norms, or norms associated with wellbeing. The comments of the interviewees reveal that they want to strike a balance between CSR practices for which are more or less urgent in terms of dealing with pressures on their environment, and CSR responses co-constructed in an iterative manner both within the firm and outside it. In regard to this last, women entrepreneurs are not just content to articulate the expectations and points of view of various stakeholders and norms. In fact, they also play an active role in associating strategic choices and incentives for implementing good practice with a tangible horizon of societal meanings. As heads of companies, they want to use CSR to further the cause of corporate sense-giving and sense-making.

 

A pragmatic approach of CSR communication that reveals gender challenges            

In our study, we emphasize a dynamic approach underpinned by the hypothesis that CSR approaches of varying degrees of completeness are already inherent to SMEs and are subject to varying degrees of social and political pressure. This has been confirmed. In this context, it is interesting to highlight the distortion that can be observed between a relatively globally limited kind of formal corporate communication and the comments of women entrepreneurs who, while mentioning a large number of initiatives, nevertheless display a substantial degree of prudence insofar as their discourse is concerned. This distortion is characterised by pragmatism. It can also be linked to the interviewees’ sense of a lack of legitimacy as they feel challenged both as women as SMEs business owners in the context of CSR deployment. In effect, it takes into account a prudent attitude on the part of the interviewees in regard to the role that women are “supposed” to play in CSR in a largely male and relatively conservative business context. They want to promote CSR by becoming directly and organically involved (sometimes in seeking a new strategy) in developing their firms, rather than fighting for a cause assigned to them by others.

For most of the women entrepreneurs interviewed, the effectiveness of the CSR approach is more important than any discourses about it. But they understand the need to clarify their choices and to apply an explicit approach to dealing with various stakeholders. This kind of pragmatism is also based on an awareness of the fact that CSR practices must be assimilated within the company.

Those who have already elaborated a CSR strategy note that this is only the beginning and that their strategy needed to be developed further. They are not only vigilant about what is happening on the ground, but also promote debate with employees that encourages them to call into question their approach to CSR and adjust and develop their messages. Their discretion in regard to communication is also designed to distinguish their approaches to the approaches taken by large companies. They are wary of overt display and criticize what they see as one of the drawbacks of large companies, namely their superficial communication. Their focus on sober communication reflects their desire to avoid appearing self-congratulatory.

The relative silence of our interviewees in regard to external communication can be seen not only as a reflection of their prudent attitude, but also of their sentiment that they lack legitimacy. According to Borger and Kruglianskas (2006), as well as to Pirnea et al. (2012), this sentiment is shared by most heads of SMEs. These entrepreneurs have the impression that their approach to the question is limited, a fact that restricts their legitimacy.

Nevertheless, at least 1/3 of the interviewees do not feel a lack of legitimacy. They defended their personalized (or even idiosyncratic) and organic approach to CSR.

 

An ambiguous leadership that nurtures a careful approach to CSR          

The expression of the CSR choices of women entrepreneurs oscillates between a sentiment of illegitimacy and self-confidence. However, respondents see in this ambiguous leadership the opportunity to test and adapt several emerging aspects of CSR for their firms. For an important proportion of the respondents, it is still more important to experiment different types of articulations of the CSR components. As Calas et al. suggest, this patient approach to CSR may enable them to gradually adjust their business models rather than to introduce sudden changes creating a certain degree of resistance amongst employees.

One third of the respondents point out that the elaboration of a clear corporate CSR agenda and a communication strategy may ruin the possibility to identify the CSR practices that are relevant with the local preoccupations and motivations of their employees. All the respondents stress their difficulty of distinguishing between, on the one hand, what is made necessary by the environment – and often imitated – and, on the other, what, after being adopted and fully taken on board, serves as a motor for growth. All the interviewees’ firms use CSR approaches. While a third of the interviewees had made the leap and incorporated CSR into their strategy, two-thirds of them ask the same question as most heads of SMEs, namely how can the transition be made from an approach designed to integrate CSR to one founding a new strategic perspective.

Interviewees who have built their beliefs on the potential of CSR to deliver change distinguish very clearly between personal content and social and societal content. They often associate their personal convictions with memories, including life choices, challenges, moments of sudden awareness, and tacit practices observed in past professional experiences. This genealogy demonstrates the degree to which they are simultaneously in phase with their stakeholders and with themselves. This doubtless enables these women to reassure themselves that they are not being remote-controlled by the diktats of a fashion or by yet another attempt to demonstrate women’s well-meaning and sharing nature. They do not want to play a role, either for themselves or for women in general, to whom acts of caring are too often allotted (Marshall 2000). In cases in which CSR takes a strategic turn, women entrepreneurs insist on its dynamic power in terms of the firm as a whole. For them, it is a criterion of evaluation and motivation.

These observations point to the work done by women entrepreneurs on developing a discourse of which they themselves are convinced before transforming that discourse into social interactions and, eventually, formal communication. Often, the doubts by which they are assailed stimulate that work, encouraging them to ensure that their CSR approaches are deeply anchored.

More generally, we can point out that a high proportion of respondents are tempted to maintain an exploratory approach of their firm’s CSR for a long period of time. They may be overwhelmed by the general management of their high-growth businesses. Their perceived relative lack of legitimacy may also inhibit their ambitions in this domain. However, we hypothesize that they may ultimately be convinced that their approach of CSR should nurture several exploratory dimensions in order to effectively anticipate economic and societal changes that will impact their firms.

 

In conclusion

Bearing in mind the fact that the heads of SMEs are largely responsible for their firm’s CSR strategies (Pirnea et al.; Borger and Kruglianskas), we decided that it was important to examine the motivations of the women entrepreneurs in our sample and to analyze how they linked the discourse of their firms to their personal discourse in order to anchor and share their motivations. Marshall suggests, in a very general way, that women entrepreneurs’ capacity to dialogue (listen, reply, summarize) with stakeholders is born of the articulation between their formal and informal discourses.

In our study, our interviewees were well aware that they had to choose between the need to respect the application of certain CSR approaches and a desire to explore with employees (and stakeholders) new ways of exploiting CSR. While, in regard to CSR, most members of our sample see themselves as relatively lacking in legitimacy, they are nevertheless confident that certain practices are well established in their firms. They are confident in two regards. They are positive about the impacts of the CSR practices on the activity of the firm as a whole and on the actors concerned. And they are also confident about the kind of “gradualist” approach they apply that makes it possible, on the one hand, to elaborate strategic hypotheses, and, on the other, to use such practices to generate and maintain meaning through and beyond the firm.

Download

pdf

.PDF (1035509 o)

Newsletter Août 2015

External link

Conseil scientifique de Women Equity

Related Link

Entrepreneuriat féminin

Club WE / Martine Laruaz / PME de croissance et RSE

Entrepreneuriat féminin

Club WE / Erin Gainer / PME de croissance et RSE

Entrepreneuriat féminin

Club WE / Farida Yahiaoui / Communication RSE : Défis et recommandations

Entrepreneuriat féminin

Newsletter du Club Women Equity - Août 2015 - Edito

Subscribe

Vous souhaitez accéder gracieusement à l’ensemble des contenus disponibles sur le site (études, comptes-rendus de recherche, interviews, etc.) ou à la newsletter de Women Equity for Growth, inscrivez-vous.

Enregistrez-vous