The CSR approach is accelerating in medium-sized companies, which adhere to it voluntarily. They now see it less as a constraint than as a lever for development.


Since 2001, companies listed on the stock exchange have had the duty to indicate in their annual report a series of information relating to the social and environmental consequences of their activities. Various legislative texts have subsequently framed what is commonly called CSR, for Corporate Social Responsibility. A concept in which companies integrate social, environmental and economic concerns in their activities and in their interactions with their stakeholders.

Sylvie Casenave-Péré saved her company thanks to… CSR. When she took over the torch from Posson-Packaging in 1995, the packaging company based in Louailles was crumbling under debt. The manager then made the strategic decision to anchor her company in sustainable development, to give it a positive impact on society and the environment. This is how “Corporate Social Responsibility” became a mantra.

And it is a success. Since 2001, Posson-Packaging has posted double-digit growth, among other things because it has been able to differentiate itself from other players in the sector: recycled cardboard, vegetable-based inks… ” My company is living proof that it is possible to make figure thanks to sustainable development “, analyzes Sylvie Casenave-Péré. If there has been a long debate, it has now become obvious: like large groups, mid-sized companies (ETI) have every interest in embarking on sustainable development.

Established throughout the territory (78% of sites are in the regions), ETIs outperform by innovating, investing, hiring and exporting more than the average. “ Sustainable development is in their genes ,” says Alexandre Montay, general delegate of the Movement of Mid-Size Companies (Meti). Their location in the territories and their family history gives them a natural openness to their social and ecological environment. »


According to a Bpifrance study , 50% of SME-ETI managers have chosen a CSR approach, and 26% of them have an approach structured around an action plan. The study also shows that the share of companies that engage in CSR increases with the number of employees: 23% in SMEs, and up to 54% in ETIs. Figures to put into perspective: not all ETIs explicitly formalize their efforts in terms of sustainable development in CSR.

While it could be perceived as a constraint, the CSR approach is in fact a voluntary choice, in which business owners see a lever for growth. Specialized in public works, the ETPO group has decided to go further than the mandatory publication of the extra-financial performance report linked to its presence on the stock market. ” We set up the CSR project in 2016, and that year, we made 20% more turnover ,” says Olivier Tardy, CEO of this ETI which employs 630 people.

Still in construction, the Lingenheld group, based in Alsace-Lorraine, made the choice in 1990 to dedicate an entire branch of its activity to the environment. ” I master all the stages of construction, from the demolition of buildings to their construction, including the recycling of rubble and the decontamination of soils ”, explains Georges Lingenheld, CEO of the group. A strategic decision, against the current of practices in the construction sector, and taken in a decade when ecological issues were not the priority.

Today, the subject has become unavoidable “says Marc Jacouton, director of the firm RSE Développement, which advises SMEs and ETIs on sustainable development. Beyond the strong demand from customers for more ethical products, and the mobilization of employees, ETIs are sometimes a link in the production chains of large companies. These, obliged to adhere to a CSR approach, require more guarantees and traceability from their suppliers. “ There is a ripple effect, summarizes Marc Jacouton. We are no longer in the time of the why, but in the time of the how. »

Movement of funds

This “how” was obvious to Benoît Rey, co-manager of Areco, a company that markets food humidification solutions and has been doing CSR since 2011. ” CSR is a red thread for improvement “, explains this convinced. It applies the three pillars of sustainable development (economy, social and environment), at all levels of its company: Areco is one of ten companies in the PACA region that are experimenting with “sustainable accounting”. This balance sheet model, which takes into account human and environmental capital in addition to economic capital, makes it possible to gauge the sustainability of the company. A concrete advantage for Benoît Rey, who sees it as a way to add value to his company.

This acceleration of sustainable approaches is closely followed by the world of finance, which is increasingly inclined to finance the companies that implement them. “ There is a real fundamental movement, analyzes Sylvie Le Rumeur, director of life insurance at UBS. Customers are asking to invest in sustainable products. Management companies have been very active in recent months to strengthen their sustainable offer (500 funds exist, for a market of 185 billion euros). No doubt to meet investor demand, but also because of the provisions of the Pacte law which will require the integration of labeled funds (ISR, GreenFin, Finansol) in life insurance from 2020.

Beyond the purely economic aspect, CSR is also a social approach. It is this argument that is most valued by business owners: more than 80% of them feel responsible for the well-being of employees, local social life or the environment. , according to Bpifrance. A commitment that they transform into an argument for their employer brand. ” We are an industrial company, but we have no trouble hiring “, explains Sylvie Casenave-Péré, CEO of Posson-Packaging. Benoît Rey of Areco recognizes this: “ I would have more difficulty recruiting if I did not put him forward. »

Although sustainable development is expanding rapidly within ETIs, there is still progress to be made. The term CSR, which has too many “big business” connotations, arouses the mistrust of smaller companies who see it as a formatted and insincere discourse. They would like a word that better reflects the particularity and authenticity of their approaches. ” I prefer to talk about PDE: sustainable performance of the company ”, laughs Benoît Rey, very invested in the PACA region to spread the good word of CSR there. Because the hardest part is still getting started.

Credit: L’Opinion