“Since 2018, we have seen a significant increase in the consideration of social and environmental impacts in public policies, notes William Bottaro, Health and Medico-Social Partner at Mazars. This social approach, which you might think is very French, actually comes from Anglo-Saxon countries. From the 2010s, it first expanded the social and solidarity economy sector, before expanding to other segments of the public sector. † It was initially to distinguish themselves that the actors involved in the implementation of public policy wanted to increase their social impact. The latter has gradually become an important argument for sustainably enhancing the competitiveness and attractiveness of the public sector, especially in the area of recruitment. “This is a crucial and priority issue for all public organisations, and especially for sectors under high pressure, such as healthcare or the social sector, which are struggling to recruit staff”illustrates William Bottaro.
In this quest for renewed interest comes growing pressure from civil society and stakeholders for more responsible behaviour, which must go beyond the stage of commitment, which is insufficient, and translate into tangible actions for the general public. † It is important to keep in mind that government policy works through redistributive mechanisms. However, citizens sometimes find it difficult to see, visualize and concretize what their taxes contribute to the concrete effects of this redistribution in their daily lives. Working to improve the social impact of public policies also means trying to show how they can, for example, benefit local employment or the environmental preservation of an area. », explains Jean-François Treille, Public Sector Partner at Mazars.
After the will, place for the execution
A public policy with impact is therefore a public policy that goes beyond its core task, such as guaranteeing access to quality care or education, with the aim of producing positive cross-cutting effects, for the benefit of society as a whole. “The government has given a strong impetus to this search for social and ecological impact, which was still abstract a few years ago. Today, the various action plans being implemented across the country show that public sector actors have gone way beyond the stage of laudable and symbolic intentions », analyzes William Bottaro.
One of these responsible initiatives is the National Sustainable Procurement Plan (Pnad) for the period 2022-2025. Among other things, it stipulates that by 2025, all public contracts notified during the year must contain at least one environmental consideration, and 30% of contracts must contain at least one social consideration. “Increasingly varied and complementary topics of public interest are now being integrated into public procurement, such as gender equality, the fight against discrimination, unfair social competition, the development of learning, respecting ethical requirements… While we can only welcome these changes, it is It is clear that the step to be taken to reach the 30% target remains very high. In 2019, only 12.5% of contracts contained a social consideration, when the target was 25% at the time.” emphasizes Jean-François Treille.
Another initiative, this time in collaboration: the social impact contract, whose ambition is to promote the emergence of innovative social and environmental projects. “It concerns the implementation of virtuous projects financed by private or public actors, projects that the state undertakes to reimburse if the objectives set at the start are achieved”, says William Bottaro. To date, several calls for expressions of interest have been launched and winners have been identified†
Gear levers are yet to be explored
Nevertheless, the two experts agree that, in addition to the actions mentioned, real scaling up for impact devices requires the implementation of methodologies and measurement tools that are essential for monitoring performance. “Of course, maturity is not the same for all projects, nor for all areas of public action. The challenge now is to create a structured, standardized universe, such as already exists in the private sector. For the boom to be real and progress visible to the greatest number, the social impacts need to be able to be monitored and tested, meaning they can be measured.”emphasizes Jean-François Treille.
It is clear that stricter regulation could accelerate the adoption of more responsible practices, as has once again been observed in the private sector. A limitation to which the experts do not necessarily declare themselves favorable, but prefer public actors to emphasize the economic benefits that can be derived from impact initiatives or even the labeling process. “To sustainably transform, the public sector must adopt a global and holistic approach that integrates all the value of the projects, which is not yet the case. To illustrate: establishing a health center in an area is an asset, certainly in terms of access to care, but also for employment and local communities – ie school and transport. The challenge is to bring a new perspective to these impact projects, as understanding their true scope would encourage the investment they need more than ever.”concludes William Bottaro.
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