Normes d’encadrement

normes de droit Responsabilité sociale des entreprises

Lecture de la professeure Fabre-Magnan sur la RSE

La professeure Fabre-Magnan a publié récemment deux superbes contributions touchant la RSE et son effectivité en droit. Je vous invite à parcourir ces deux articles qui livre une analyse bien intéressante sur la dureté juridique de la RSE :

  • Fabre-Magnan, M. (2018), « Les fausses promesses des entreprises : RSE et droit commun des contrats », dans Études à la mémoire de Philippe Neau-Leduc, Paris, L.G.D.J., p. 452-458.
  • Fabre-Magnan, M. (2019), « La responsabilité du fait du cocontractant – Une figure juridique pour la RSE », dans Liber Amicorum en hommage à Pierre Rodière, Paris, L.G.D.J., p. 79-90.

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Gouvernance Normes d'encadrement objectifs de l'entreprise

L’intérêt de l’entreprise en Allemagne : aperçu historique

Merci à la professeure Anne-Christin Mittwoch de nous offrir une très belle synthèse sur la notion d’intérêt social en droit allemand pour montrer que la notion de raison d’être doit être comprise en lien avec elle. Un billet à lire de toute urgence !

Extrait :

Lessons learnt from legal history: the company’s role in society as a whole

The company interest has a tradition of almost a hundred years, its roots dating even further back. The intersection between private and public interests has its origin in ancient Roman law that had been absorbed by German legal scholars since the 12th century. This tradition has made it difficult to align private and public interests explicitly within the definition of the corporate purpose – until today, public and private law are considered separate. Thus, the early phase of German stock corporation regulation in the 19th century was characterized by a sharp dichotomy of public and private interests (rather than shareholder and stakeholder interests). They seemed so incompatible with each other that the German octroi and concession system sought to interweave them in regulatory terms in order to provide protection for society against the unbridled pursuit of private interests of corporate managers and to deal with the threat this posed to the public good. As a result, it was not possible to incorporate in Germany between 1794 and 1843 if not for the purpose of the common or public good.

The common benefit as a condition for incorporation

This strict precondition was abandoned in 1870, but in the 20th century, the discourse on the common good in company law gained ground again with the debate on the concept of the ‘company per se’. This discussion was initiated by Rathenau’s writings and aimed at a practical independence of the company from its governing bodies and their individual interests. Due to their considerable macroeconomic importance, Rathenau considered stock corporations no longer the sole objects of the private interests of shareholders but demanded that they should be detached from the purely private sector and linked to the interests of the state and civil society. Consequentially, the Stock Corporation Act of 1937 stipulated: ‘The Management Board shall, under its own responsibility, manage the company in such a way as […] the common benefit of the people and the state demand’.

The 1965 amendment to the Stock Corporation Act erased this statement from the wording of the law, because of its Nazi connotations and because it was deemed unnecessary to spell out the obvious. The continued validity of the common benefit as an unwritten principle of stock corporation law has since then been discussed and the development of codetermination in the 1970s intensified this discussion.

Where is the concept of company interest today?

In the following decades, various understandings of the interest of the company were put forward by academics and shaped this concept that until today is considered the major guideline for board members’ actions. Since the 1990s, the debate has opened up to the Anglo-American shareholder-stakeholder dichotomy and its influences can be seen in today’s foreword of the GCGC. However, binding standards of conduct for corporate bodies as well as for an associated liability were not developed. Does this render the concept of the company interest useless? No. It offers a framework, an overarching normative idea, in which different legal obligations for board members can be placed and interpreted. And its dynamic offers flexibility: it constantly poses the questions of the ‘right’ relationship between company and society and between public regulation and private interests. But currently, flexibility is accompanied by legal uncertainty.

Towards a better framework for the corporate purpose?

Without an explicit definition, the concept of the company interest seems to be at a crossroads. Thus, a legal clarification of its relevance is much needed. This clarification should connect to its historical core: the relation between public and private interests that have to be continuously balanced within corporate decision-making. And the responsibility of the company for the common good as its background. Yet a conclusive definition of its scope will not be possible: History has shown that none of the above-mentioned interest groups dominates over another on an abstract level. And what is in the company interest depends also on the object and the articles of association of the respective enterprise together with the individual situation. Nevertheless, the law can and should make explicitly clear that corporate boards are committed to the company interest. This clarification is not only needed in order to reject the shareholder-stakeholder dichotomy. It can also serve as a reference point for further obligations of the board to foster corporate sustainability. Because ultimately, it is in the enterprise’s best interests, that boards ensure a sustainable value creation within the planetary boundaries.

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actualités internationales Divulgation divulgation extra-financière normes de droit Responsabilité sociale des entreprises

Proposal for a Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD)

Le 21 avril 2021, l’Union européenne a publié une série de mesures touchant la taxonomie, le reporting extra-financier et les devoirs des investisseurs institutionnels.

Éléments essentiels :

The Commission adopted a proposal for a Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), which would amend the existing reporting requirements of the NFRD. The proposal

  • extends the scope to all large companies and all companies listed on regulated markets (except listed micro-enterprises)
  • requires the audit (assurance) of reported information
  • introduces more detailed reporting requirements, and a requirement to report according to mandatory EU sustainability reporting standards
  • requires companies to digitally ‘tag’ the reported information, so it is machine readable and feeds into the European single access point envisaged in the capital markets union action plan

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actualités internationales Divulgation divulgation extra-financière Gouvernance normes de droit

Les adieux au reporting extra-financier… vraiment ?

Blogging for sustainability offre un beau billet sur la construction européenne du reporting extra-financier : « Goodbye, non-financial reporting! A first look at the EU proposal for corporate sustainability reporting » (David Monciardini et Jukka Mähönen, 26 April 2021). Les auteurs soulignent la dernière position de l’Union européenne (celle du 21 avril 2021 qui modifie le cadre réglementaire du reporting extra-financier) et explique pourquoi celle-ci est pertinente. Du mieux certes, mais encore des critiques !

Extrait :

A breakthrough in the long struggle for corporate accountability?

Compared to the NFRD, the new proposal contains several positive developments.

First, the concept of ‘non-financial reporting’, a misnomer that was widely criticised as obscure, meaningless or even misleading, has been abandoned. Finally we can talk about mandatory sustainability reporting, as it should be.

Second, the Commission is introducing sustainability reporting standards, as a common European framework to ensure comparable information. This is a major breakthrough compared to the NFRD that took a generic and principle-based approach. The proposal requires to develop both generic and sector specific mandatory sustainability reporting standards. However, the devil is in the details. The Commission foresees that the development of the new corporate sustainability standards will be undertaken by the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group (EFRAG), a private organisation dominated by the large accounting firms and industry associations. As we discuss below, the most important issue is to prevent the risks of regulatory capture and privatization of EU norms. What is a step forward, though, is the companies’ duty to report on plans to ensure the compatibility of their business models and strategies with the transition towards a zero-emissions economy in line with the Paris Agreement.

Third, the scope of the proposed CSRD is extended to include ‘all large companies’, not only ‘public interest entities’ (listed companies, banks, and insurance companies). According to the Commission, companies covered by the rules would more than triple from 11,000 to around 49,000. However, only listed small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are included in the proposal. This is a major flaw in the proposal as the negative social and environmental impacts of some SMEs’ activities can be very substantial. Large subsidiaries are thereby excluded from the scope, which also is a major weakness. Besides, instead of scaling the general standards to the complexity and size of all undertakings, the Commission proposes a two-tier regime, running the risk of creating a ‘double standard’ that is less stringent for SMEs.

Fourth, of the most welcomed proposals, however, is strengthening a double materiality’ principle for standards (making it ‘enshrined’, according to the Commission), to cover not only just the risks of unsustainability to companies themselves but also the impacts of companies on society and the environment. Similarly, it is positive that the Commission maintains a multi-stakeholder approach, whereas some of the international initiatives in place privilege the information needs of capital providers over other stakeholders (e.g. IIRCCDP; and more recently the IFRS).

Fifth, a step forward is the compulsory digitalisation of corporate disclosure whereby information is ‘tagged’ according to a categorisation system that will facilitate a wider access to data.

Finally, the proposal introduces for the first time a general EU-wide audit requirement for reported sustainability information, to ensure it is accurate and reliable. However, the proposal is watered down by the introduction of a ‘limited’ assurance requirement instead of a ‘reasonable’ assurance requirement set to full audit. According to the Commission, full audit would require specific sustainability assurance standards they have not yet planned for. The Commission proposes also that the Member States allow firms other than auditors of financial information to assure sustainability information, without standardised assurance processes. Instead, the Commission could have follow on the successful experience of environmental audit schemes, such as EMAS, that employ specifically trained verifiers.

No time for another corporate reporting façade

As others have pointed out, the proposal is a long-overdue step in the right direction. Yet, the draft also has shortcomings, which will need to be remedied if genuine progress is to be made.

In terms of standard-setting governance, the draft directive specifies that standards should be developed through a multi-stakeholder process. However, we believe that such a process  requires more than symbolic trade union and civil society involvement. EFRAG shall have its own dedicated budget and staff so to ensure adequate capacity to conduct independent research. Similarly, given the differences between sustainability and financial reporting standards, EFRAG shall permanently incorporate a balanced representation of trade unions, investors, civil society and companies and their organisations, in line with a multi-stakeholder approach.

The proposal is ambiguous in relation to the role of private market-driven initiatives and interest groups. It is crucial that the standards are aligned to the sustainability principles that are written in the EU Treaties and informed by a comprehensive science-based understanding of sustainability. The announcement in January 2020 of the development of EU sustainability reporting standards has been followed by the sudden move by international accounting body the IFRS Foundation to create a global standard setting structure, focusing only on financially material climate-related disclosures.  In the months to come, we can expect enormous pressure on EU policy-makers to adopt this privatised and narrower approach, widely criticised by the academic community.

Furthermore, the proposal still represents silo thinking, separating sustainability disclosure from the need to review and reform financial accounting rules (that remain untouched). It still emphasises transparency over governance. Albeit it includes a requirement for companies to report on sustainability due diligence and actual and potential adverse impacts connected with the company’s value chain, it lacks policy coherence. The proposal’s link with DG Justice upcoming legislation on the boards’ sustainability due diligence duties later this year is still tenuous.

After decades of struggles for mandatory high-quality corporate sustainability disclosure, we cannot afford another corporate reporting façade. It is time for real progress towards corporate accountability.

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Gouvernance normes de droit Nouvelles diverses Responsabilité sociale des entreprises Structures juridiques

Entreprise sociale : Chypre adopte une loi

Nouvelle qui intéressera nos lectrices et lecteurs du blogue : « Cyprus passes Social Enterprise Law » (par Alexandra Fougala-Metaxa, Pioneer Post, 30 mars 2021).

Extrait :

Social enterprises in Cyprus now have their own legal framework. In December 2020, the House of Representatives of Cyprus passed, for the first time, a Social Enterprise Law. The bill was initially introduced in 2013 and it has taken seven years for it to be approved, reportedly due to many modifications, debates and delays. 

Prior to this, Cyprus had no legal framework for social enterprises. According to a social enterprise mapping report for Cyprus, carried out by the European Commission, there were only seven organisations that could be described as ‘social enterprises’ in Cyprus in 2014. A recent survey by CyprusInno of entrepreneurs in the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities found that 11% of the 359 entrepreneurs surveyed said they ran social enterprises.

Maria Nomikou, the youth, skills and inclusive communities sector lead for Europe at the British Council, says: “A law on social enterprises can have a very positive impact as it fosters visibility, growth and the development of this type of business.”

Visibility surrounding social enterprises is key to encouraging the growth of the sector in Cyprus. For years, the lack of a legal definition of the term social enterprise meant that social enterprises in Cyprus operated as either limited liability companies or charities. The problem with this, as identified by Andrea Solomonides, the lead of Cyprus operations at enterprise support organisation Cypriot Enterprise Link, was it created an image problem – many people did not think that working full time for social enterprises was financially sustainable, and thus the sector struggled to attract staff. 

A law defining social enterprises as separate, unique entities, distinct from other types of businesses or non-profits, helps increase awareness. The law also means that social enterprises will have access to EU grants available only to the social enterprise sector, and receive various tax benefits, which, Maria Nomikou hopes, will motivate people to set up their own social enterprises.

(…) The definition of social enterprises under the new law is as enterprises with a social cause that reinvest a proportion of their profits back into their work, or enterprises that hire a certain proportion of their staff from vulnerable groups.

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actualités canadiennes Gouvernance judiciarisation de la RSE normes de droit Nouvelles diverses Responsabilité sociale des entreprises Structures juridiques

Conditions de travail des ouvriers chinois : pas de poursuite en France !

L’entreprise sud-coréenne Samsung, spécialisée dans l’électronique, a été contrainte de se défendre, jeudi 11 janvier, après que deux ONG avaient apporté de nouveaux éléments à leurs accusations de violations des droits de l’homme dans les usines chinoises du constructeur (ici). Le Monde nous apprend que les poursuites judiciaires n’auront pas lieu : « Conditions de travail des ouvriers chinois : les poursuites contre Samsung France annulées » (26 avril 2021).

Extrait :

La filiale du leader mondial des smartphones avait en effet été mise en examen en avril 2019 pour « pratiques commerciales trompeuses », du fait de la présence sur son site Internet de son opposition au travail forcé et au travail des enfants.

(…) Selon une source judiciaire, cette plainte a été jugée irrecevable le 30 mars par la chambre de l’instruction de la cour d’appel de Paris, au motif que les ONG ne disposaient pas de l’agrément pour agir en justice contre des « pratiques commerciales trompeuses ».

Cette décision entraîne de fait la nullité de la procédure qu’elles avaient lancée, et a donc pour conséquence d’annuler la mise en examen de Samsung France. La maison mère, Samsung Electronics, a dit « prendre acte » de ces décisions, sans plus de commentaires.

(…)

Afin de justifier une procédure pénale en France, les ONG estimaient suffisant que le message incriminé soit accessible aux consommateurs français pour que les juridictions du pays soient compétentes. S’appuyant sur divers rapports d’ONG qui ont pu se rendre dans les usines du groupe en Chine, en Corée du Sud et au Vietnam, Sherpa et Actionaid dénonçaient l’« emploi d’enfants de moins de seize ans », des « horaires de travail abusifs », des « conditions de travail et d’hébergement incompatibles avec la dignité humaine » et une « mise en danger des travailleurs ».

Une autre association, UFC-Que choisir, a déposé elle aussi en février à Paris une plainte avec constitution de partie civile pour pratiques commerciales trompeuses visant le groupe, et attend désormais que la justice se prononce.

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judiciarisation de la RSE normes de droit Responsabilité sociale des entreprises

Fausse publicité en matière de RSE : New York tente sa chance

On le sait depuis longtemps : la publicité mensongère peut être un fondement de durcissement de la RSE Voilà qu’une actualité du Journal de Québec vient le confirmer (« New York accuse ExxonMobil, BP et Shell de « tromperie » sur les énergies propres », 22 avril 2021)… même si on ne sait pas l’issue de la procédure enclenchée.

Extrait :

La plainte de 97 pages leur reproche aussi « d’amplifier les bienfaits pour le climat » des produits liés au gaz naturel, aux biocarburants ou à l’hydrogène.

Elle accuse par ailleurs les entreprises, ainsi que la puissante fédération professionnelle du secteur API, de « présenter de façon erronée » les impacts climatiques des énergies fossiles.

Lutter contre le changement climatique signifie aussi « s’attaquer à certaines des plus grandes entreprises polluantes pour publicité mensongère et greenwashing », a justifié le maire de la ville, Bill de Blasio, dans un communiqué.

La plainte a été déposée le jour de l’ouverture du sommet virtuel sur le climat organisé par le président américain Joe Biden.

« Lorsque des compagnies pétrolières présentent leurs produits avec des mots comme « plus écologiques » ou « plus propres », tout en omettant de divulguer les effets réels de ces produits, cela nuit à la capacité des consommateurs à prendre des décisions éclairées », a estimé Lorelei Salas, du département de protection des consommateurs et des travailleurs de la ville.

Ce n’est pas la première fois que New York part à l’assaut des géants du secteur pétrolier.

La mairie avait porté plainte en janvier 2018 contre BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil et Shell pour leurs responsabilités dans le changement climatique, une plainte rejetée en appel début avril.

La ville de New York a aussi perdu fin 2019 un procès contre ExxonMobil, qu’elle accusait d’avoir trompé les investisseurs en prétendant à tort intégrer pleinement les risques de durcissement des législations sur les émissions de gaz à effet de serre dans ses projections à long terme.

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