Auchan was created in 1961 as a single supermarket in Roubaix, France. Now, the retailer operates supermarkets and shopping malls in 12 countries with a business turnover of E39.5 billion (2008). It employs 209,000 people, 116,000 of whom are shareholders (in eight countries). Employees currently hold 13 % of the shares. The other shares are still owned by the (now hundreds of) members of the founding Mulliez family. 2 Auchan is now the second largest retailer in France with E39.7 billion in revenue before tax in 2009 (source: Auchan website Auchan.com, accessed January 10, 2011). The largest, Carrefour, is twice as big, holding a 23 % market share. 3
Auchan had a strong reputation for social responsibility from the start, and, moreover, developed a management style which strongly motivates employees by offering them signiﬁ cant responsibilities. By also giving them the opportunity to become shareholders and to take advantage of the growth of the company, the Mulliez family showed their commitment to Catholic Social Teaching. In a nutshell, there are several key ideas of this teaching which are relevant in this context: making proﬁ t is imperative for the survival of a ﬁ rm, and therefore a legitimate aim, but it has to be done properly. Private property is morally correct if this property’s ultimate aim is the “common good.” That is, roughly translated, if it is used in a socially responsible way. Since employees are considered to be persons, the principle of a morally defensible society based on private property also applies to these employees; therefore, they are able to become owners as well. 4 In general, business should be run honestly with a deep respect for clients and employees.