When Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, the world’s largest commercial real estate group, implemented its “Better Place” CSR strategy in 2016, the question of employee involvement was immediately raised. “To implement our various commitments, the participation of our stakeholders, and especially our employees, is crucial. We have decided to set individual CSR objectives, starting with all members of the Executive Board, and since this year, with each of our employees,” explained Clément Jeannin, Group CSR Director.
Diffusing CSR strategy across all business sectors
Two main CSR objective categories have been created: general actions, such as ecogests designed to reduce energy or paper consumption, and operational actions that make it possible to define the CSR strategy in every employee's responsibilities. For example, rental teams are set to include “green lease” targets (or those meeting certain energy standards) in newly signed contracts.
“We have worked with all departments to ensure that all issues are well addressed, both globally and by zone. According to the business sector, we have proposed between 3 and 20 objectives, to allow managers to select, in conjunction with their employees, the most relevant objectives and monitor their progress,” said Sabine Pompey, CSR Manager.
The approach is still new but 96% of employees are already involved, and the CSR team believes it is starting to pay off. “Employees quickly adopted the approach,” said Pompey, “so challenges were organised around eco-friendly practices, and across business sectors. This led to team discussions to rethink certain processes, such as the recovery of unpaid bills”.
A promising initiative...under certain conditions
Ultimately, the success of the approach will be validated by the success of the overall CSR strategy, said Jeannin. “We are going to regularly monitor the milestones achieved, and this will be reported in our reference document for the involvement of all our stakeholders. For us, it is a strong point of differentiation and it is already a topic of discussion with our investors,” he said.
For governance experts, the widespread setting of individual CSR objectives is a good way to involve all company employees. But not without conditions. “One of the biggest issues is the consistency between the criteria used to set individual objectives and the company’s CSR strategy,” said Sylvain Lambert, partner in charge of PwC’s Sustainable Development department.
If achieving objectives is not related to remuneration, it must ensure that it is sufficiently “motivating” and relevant for the employee, Lambert said. Another point of vigilance is that of governance, insists Melanie Czepik, head of governance, performance and reporting at Orse (CSR Observatory). “For the scheme to be successful, managerial management, from middle management to executive board members, is absolutely crucial over time”.
Béatrice Héraud @beatriceheraud