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Le Monde: Emmanuel Faber's commitment to CSR may well have also attracted … activist investors

24 Mar 2021
Professor of strategy Georg Wernicke remarks that companies displaying their social responsibility can quickly become prey for the media and investors in search of optimization.

Originally found at Le Monde, by Georg Wernicke.

(Original story published in French and translated here in English)

Twenty-nine months before Emmanuel Faber's retirement from the post of CEO of Danone, Paul Polman , CEO of Unilever for more than a decade, also resigned following a rebellion by his shareholders.

The turnovers of directors due to shareholder dissatisfaction are legion, but those of Emmanuel Faber and Paul Polman have in common a very current resonance, since the two CEOs gave pride of place to social and environmental responsibility (CSR), responsible capitalism and a multi-party model.

Paul Polman had notably positioned himself at the spearhead of a ten-year plan that was to decouple Unilever's economic growth from its environmental footprint and promote the health and well-being of a billion people around the world. Emmanuel Faber had embarked on similar ambitious initiatives at Danone, in the hope of transforming the way we produce our food, making Danone carbon neutral and improving the health of as many people as possible.

The company "spends"

CEOs have a real influence on their company's CSR activities, as shown in a study of 1,199 CEOs at the head of 819 companies in the United States ( “How much influence do CEOS have on company actions and outcomes? The example of corporate social responsibility ”, Christophe Boone, Miha Sajko and Georg Wernicke, Academy of Management Discoveries , January 15, 2021). Almost 30% of the total variation in a company's eco-responsible actions results from the managerial policy of its CEO.

According to some investors, Paul Polman and Emmanuel Faber therefore had the ideal profile to steer their companies towards a slow “green” transition and took into account the needs of all the players in their companies, and not only their shareholders, and also made it possible to attract investors oriented towards CSR.

Continue reading the original article in French at Le Monde.

Read the original research in Academy of Management Discoveries.

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