chapter  4
17 Pages

France: state influence over union strategies on CSR

ByCHRISTELLE HAVARD, ANDRÉ SOBCZAK

The aim of this chapter is to highlight the strong influence that the state has over the strategies and actions of French trade union representatives in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which we define as the implementation of sustainable development at the level of the company. While some French union representatives use the term ‘sustainable development’ rather than CSR, we shall retain the term CSR, which is more appropriate when dealing with strategies and activities taking place at the level of companies. Two examples that we shall further develop below illustrate the influence of the state. A first example is the 2008 legislation on collective bargaining that reviews the rules on the representativeness of the unions and requires a certain percentage in professional elections to be able to negotiate collective agreements. By pressurizing the unions to seek new members and retain their current ones, this reform shapes the strategies of the various French unions towards CSR. Some unions consider that CSR issues provide an opportunity to gain new members, while others prefer to concentrate on more traditional issues to maintain existing members. A second example of state influence is the decision of the French government to involve unions and other stakeholders in the definition of the national strategy on sustainable development. Being regularly consulted by the government on economic, social and environmental issues, the major French unions have been encouraged to appoint experts, or at least to develop a coherent discourse, in this field and, to a certain extent, to develop proactive, reactive or critical strategies.