Corporate responsibility: for 73% of the French, starting a company should be useful for society

Posted on Sep 28. 2021, 7:34 AMUpdated Sep 28. 2021 at 7:50 am

A “trigger”, a “catalyst”, an “accelerator”… Whatever the term is used, it seems that the health crisis has served as a tipping point to spur, or even accelerate, companies on the path to social and environmental responsibility. There also seems to be a recognition of public opinion, especially among the younger generations, that project developers have no choice but to correlate financial and non-financial performance. As shown by a survey on French and responsible entrepreneurship conducted by OpinionWay for “Les Echos” and AXA, 73% of respondents believe that setting up a business must necessarily be useful for society.

“What is good is what turns out to be useful,” summarizes sociologist Ronan Chastellier, explaining that “by consuming brands that are supposedly useful to society, the creation of businesses is also influenced by utility and responsibility” . “Young entrepreneurs would strive for less economic selfishness, for an ideology of sharing and giving, with a form of disinterestedness”, he analyzes, but nevertheless emphasizes the need to come across as altruistic “in order to legitimize oneself with the consumer and “a fashion effect of responsible entrepreneurship”.

Use the energies of money differently

The fact remains that the merits of responsible business are entrenched in the minds of people, who increasingly associate it with young people, with Xénials, Millennials, Z and others. In fact, 64% of people surveyed by OpinionWay find the new generation more capable of taking ecological transformation into account, while showing greater solidarity. “There would be, for the French, a generational conflict between the old and new ways of running the economy,” deciphered Ronan Chastellier. And the sociologist points to “a refusal to submit exclusively to productivist dogmas, to the cost-benefit calculation and the need to reinvent oneself economically by using the ‘energies of money’ in a different way”.

Money, exactly, is subject to a very different perception from one generation to the next. While only 25% of people aged 65 and over, 37% of people aged 50-64 and 43% of people aged 35-49 think that a young person wants to improve the world more than “to make money”, it first concerned answer reversed: 63% of 18-24 year olds (and 48% of 25-34 year olds) say they prioritize improving the world over their monetary interests. “Youth’s idealism about money seems to evaporate with age,” notes Ronan Chastellier, noting “a stage of naive attachment to a company that is not greedy for profit, followed by a phase of disenchantment, demystifying.”

The end of a primitive egoism

In terms of work sites considered to be a priority, environmental conservation is at the forefront at 23%. This is followed by the desire to develop responsible consumption (19%), to be useful to others (15%) and to fight inequality (10%). “On the stage of the motivations of young people falls an excessive determination for everything to do with the environment, the end of the ruthless objectivity by calculation in the economic world and the desire to stop being guided by primitive egotism.” Ronan Chastellier asks.

Another point of generational conflict, the weight of the influence of certain personalities on the creators of companies is not understood in the same way: while only 34% of the over-65s think that Bill Gates, Leonardo DiCaprio, Greta Thunberg and others orientate real estate developers towards greater solidarity and environmental protection, 65% of 18 to 24-year-olds answer in the affirmative.

On the other hand, everyone agrees on one point: the pandemic has led to vocations with more environmental and social ambitions, according to 70% of 18-24 year olds, 69% of 35-49 year olds and 66% of the 65 years old and older. † And Ronan Chastellier concludes that “the health crisis would be ‘super-mobilizing’ for young entrepreneurs aware of the environmental, social and financial unsustainability of the old globalized economic model”.

Methodology: research conducted by OpinionWay, the 1er and September 2, 2021, with a sample of 1,022 people representative of the French population aged 18 and over.

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