CSR: Small Is Beautiful

April 4, 2019

 

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Out of the 50,000 companies on the EcoVadis platform, some 7,000 are located in France. Around 16 percent of them are very small businesses with up to 25 employees. But who are they and why are they deciding to be assessed on their ethical, social and environmental performance?

Founded in 2003 and with only 15 employees onboard, human resources firm Kenseo is one such business. The firm, which specializes in executive leaders has worked with EcoVadis since 2017. Its motto is to “grow and develop people and organizations.”

Convinced that Corporate Social Responsibility is relevant to everyone, regardless of size, Kenseo is eager to apply its principles in its strategy, use it as a competitive advantage as well as help in attracting and retaining talent. As part of this initiative, Kenseo has also recently joined Mix-r, a French organization, which offers a special place for companies to exchange best practices for responsible business.

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Philippe Andrillat, Associate Director, Kenseo

We sat down Philippe Andrillat,  Associate Director at Kenseo to talk about his experience with EcoVadis and the benefits of getting a sustainability assessment.

 

How long have you known EcoVadis?

Since January 2017. As a key supplier to a large international agri-food group, we were invited to carry out an EcoVadis assessment so as to validate our compliance to the requirements of their supplier code of conduct.

 

How did you feel about your first assessment?

This first invitation was a revelation. We realized that we had a lot of initiatives in place but nothing was formalized.

 

As a result, the score was not what we expected. Nonetheless, this initial assessment was useful as it enabled us to formalize our CSR approach as well as our existing policies covering human resources, environmental practices and business ethics.

 

What was it like when you were first invited for the assessment? Did it feel like an obligation or more of an invitation?

It was more like an invitation for us to evaluate our own performance. Kenseo was already aware of many of the issues and we had already some good practices in place, especially concerning disability as we donate 1 percent of the turnover to the cause. But we had never taken the time to assess our approach. The assessment request was an opportunity for us to assess our CSR maturity.

 

I think investment in sustainability is crucial but I’m under the impression that many purchasing organizations still do not recognize it as true value.

 

And it takes a lot of time for a small company like Kenseo to invest in CSR. This investment should be better recognized by large companies to secure their supply chains. In addition to requesting an EcoVadis Rating, the result should generate bonuses and be translated into additional referrals and, in concrete terms, into assignments. Responsible purchasing is also a vision that creates opportunities and not only risks and constraints.

 

In addition to providing an analysis of your performance for your existing customer, does the EcoVadis assessment help you make concrete progress around CSR issues?

 

The request for an assessment gave us an opportunity to evaluate our practices and identify the initiatives already in place. This year, we have formalized our policies and developed new initiatives under the following themes:

 

  • Environment: fully subsidized public transport for our employees, use of videoconferencing for meetings with customers and candidates, hybrid or electric car, standby clock for computers and air conditioning, sorting and recycling of office waste.
  • Human Resources: workstation design, team building during annual seminars, annual progress interviews, training plans, company insurance, donations, anti-discrimination practices workshops, mindfulness training.
  • Business ethics: contractual clause in our contracts, conscience clause, non-acceptance of business gifts, ethical charter, securing and regular cleaning of our databases including CV databases.

 

The EcoVadis assessment we respond to each year allows us to improve and challenge our actions on a daily basis.

 

Have you ever considered the premium plan?

Absolutely. We did not choose the premium plan and we have regretted it.

With the benefit of the hindsight, we know it would probably have been the right choice as it would allow us to share our scorecard, display our badge and generally communicate our progress more widely. These are advantages we cannot benefit from within the current plan and it is tough for a company eager to show its commitment to CSR.

 

We are seriously considering this option for our next assessment.

 

Finally, as a leader among small and medium-sized companies, what advice would you give to another CEO of a similarly-sized company invited to be assessed by one of its clients?

 

I would advise them to welcome this request as something positive as it may force their company to make structured progress on this very current issue.

 

It is also an opportunity to establish an in-house project team to engage employees in all the initiatives and thus get them to support the entire approach.

 

And all this is true regardless of the size of the company. What counts is employee involvement and company values. For us, it is about our commitment toward our customers, suppliers, partners, employees that goes beyond a good rating.

 

The only difficulty is to find the necessary resources internally because all employees are first and foremost busy operational staff in their daily work.

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