"We are at the intersection of business and politics”

After eight months of intense work, the Business Climate Convention (BCC)(1) has just ended. The process, which brought together a diversity of companies embodied by more than 150 executives, ended with the production of 150 roadmaps (one per company) and 10 concrete proposals for the ecological transition. How can we collectively continue this momentum? How can it be implemented at the local or European level? Yannick Servant, one of the co-founders of the CCC explains the next steps.

Missions Publiques. The initial objective you set were to get executives and business leaders out of their comfort zone and to produce collective intelligence. Did you succeed?

Yannick Servant. The BCC was not a “corporate” event like others. I must admit that the end of the Convention was a very emotional moment. To get executives out of their comfort zone, we really made them take a step aside: meditative moments before each session, facilitators even made them dance. They also performed a “haka” on the Gerland stadium lawn with rugby players during session 5 in Lyon in the South of France. The objective of these animations, beyond basic fun, was to address something else than that dull and tedious part of the brain that activates an Excel sheet. Business leaders are normal human beings, with emotions that they have the right to listen to in order to do their job properly and to face the daily imperatives of their company. If we acknowledge that point of view, yes, I believe we succeeded!

As far as the collective intelligence process is concerned, we have been working in cooperation since the 2nd session when we tackled the concept of regenerative economy. Many cooperative projects were imagined in the roadmap exercise. They were also invited to gather around specific themes. For example, one of the collective proposals that was voted on was the creation of an “R3” index (for reusability, repairability and recyclability). This index will be used by all companies that produce non-food items. It will be tested by participants to prove its effectiveness, and then the project can be expanded.

 

Missions Publiques. Let’s have a look at the 10 proposals you made. Apart from the number, how do they differ from the proposals of the French Citizens’ Climate Convention?

Yannick Servant. At the beginning, participants had proposed about fifty measures. There was a first filter of 20 and then 10. Among them: the disappearance of tax niches that are harmful to the environment, the “eco-conditionality” of access to public contracts and financing, making executives’ wages conditional to the success of previously established environmental criteria, and the obligation to carry out a scope 3 carbon assessment for all companies with more than 50 employees. For the time being, only companies with more than 500 employees are required, every four years, to assess their direct greenhouse gas emissions (scope 1), as well as those related to their energy consumption (scope 2). Scope 3 includes all indirect emissions, i.e. the life cycle of a product, waste, employee mobility, transport of goods, etc.

The vote on these proposals gave the association a mandate, on behalf of the BCC collective, to bring these proposals to the local French government. As they stand, these proposals are not ready to be copied and pasted into an amendment or a bill. The next step will be to deepen each of the 10 proposals during the summer, in co-construction with the actors of the BCC ecosystem, to translate the measure into law. This is why, during the summer, we will refine these proposals by contacting senators, parliamentarians, collaborators in the ministries and all the people in our ecosystem (guarantors, ADEME, Shift project, etc.). Today, we are at the intersection of the economic and political worlds.

 

Missions Publiques. The drafting and voting of the proposals that will be brought to the government was a collective exercise. What about the roadmaps that must align each company with the European objectives of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030?

Yannick Servant. The final deliverable that we will present on September 28 at an event at the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (CESE) will include the reworked proposals, a compilation of the roadmaps, their meta-analysis, a history of understanding, etc. All 150 roadmaps will be available for consultation on the website.

The roadmaps were elaborated until the last hour of the last session. The participants were able to benefit from interventions and tools to “challenge” their project. Members of the Shift project, “(2)Pour un Réveil Écologique” and various collectives led a series of workshops entitled “turning up the heat” to push them to the limit. During the summer, a group of volunteers will analyze these roadmaps, according to a short and precise methodology developed by Christophe Sempels (Lumia’s CEO). This will be followed by a meta-analysis which, in about 20 pages, will show, by region, by sector, by size of company, what is emerging, what cooperation looks like, what the obstacles are, what acceleration paths have been opened up…

Today, we have 140 roadmaps. Some have expressed reluctance to publish them right away, because of the time it takes to get their employees on board or because of a duty of reserve with respect to their board of directors, for example. This is why we are giving ourselves the summer to allow the participating leaders to make their stakeholders comfortable with the exercise, to help them as much as possible and to end on a version that pleases everyone.

"The 150 business leaders represent 350,000 employees and 75 billion in sales. Yet, one BCC is nothing. What counts is the multiplier effect, the leverage effect.

Yannick Servant

Co-founders of the CCC

Missions Publiques. Is this meta-analysis a way of designing an evaluation grid that can subsequently be used to measure the impact of the BCC?

Yannick Servant. We asked each company to carry out a self-assessment based on four stages: the first is business as usual; the second is responsible business (i.e., I have a CSR team, I think about reducing impacts, I publish reports, etc.); the third is contributory business (within my company, I think about all the concepts of circularity). And finally, the fourth step: regenerative, i.e. going beyond zero impact (how I generate positive impact because too many resources have been destroyed).

The 150 business leaders represent 350,000 employees and 75 billion in sales. Yet, one BCC is nothing. What counts is the multiplier effect, the leverage effect. The combination of an ambitious document and the personality of the leader will have this driving force that will make us go from one BCC to 100, to 1000, to 10,000 BCCs, all in a context of increasing general cursors. In this regard, we have co-signed an op-ed on training the government on climate issues. The topic is moving forward.

 

Missions Publiques. You spoke of multiplier effects. What local or sectoral declinations have you have planned?

Yannick Servant. What we call “territorialization” or organizing human activities by fixing them in spatial territory, is underway. It is driven by the participants themselves. Local entrepreneurship must be connected to politics, administrations and local institutions in order to create a movement of co-construction at the territorial level. This is not always obvious. For the moment, we have more requests than we can satisfy. We are very much in demand by the territories, the collectives (network of entrepreneurs, CAC 40 companies…) and we are also in contact with major schools.

The European scale is essential (90% of environmental standards come from Europe) but it is complex. We are in the process of thinking about it. For the time being, two approaches are emerging: a BCC that would bring together companies with a European dimension (CAC 40). This format, beyond the operational difficulties, could have an enormous impact with a reproduction of the same dynamics in each country. The other axis is that of the institutions with a BCC in Brussels, which is the 2nd capital of lobbying. On this point, we still need to take a little more time to reflect before launching into it.

 

Missions Publiques. The companies represented at the BCC cover multiple sectors. Some companies were quite advanced on the subject of transition, others, less so. I’m thinking of the construction or transport sectors… How did you manage to get everyone moving in the same direction?

Yannick Servant. We also had in the Avia-Picoty collective, the service stations, but also the number 3 or 4 in the meat industry, Ugitech, a steel manufacturer in Savoie, Renault Trucks. All these people have testified to the transformation and impact of the BCC on a personal level. This is the first brick. Of course, this transformation must be spread to the boards of directors. But once the inner shift is made, there is no turning back. My belief is that if you make the trajectory eminently desirable, change can happen.

 

Missions Publiques. At a time of global limits, how did you overcome the climate issue?

Yannick Servant. Because it seemed very close to the Citizens’ Climate Convention, we made a choice of branding that served us poorly, which didn’t seem like it at the time. The mandate was to inscribe the roadmap within the planetary limits, and goes way beyond the “climate”. So, from the first session, we evoked the planetary limits and articulated the Convention around the poles “climate-energy”, “pollution(s)”, “biodiversity” and “resource depletion”. Later, in session 4, which dealt with the (re)connection to the living, experts such as Emmanuel Delannoy or Bruno David from the Museum of Natural History particularly insisted on the relationship with the living.

To describe our place in the transition ecosystem, I see us as a particle gas pedal. The particles are already there: there were and are many projects, initiatives, groupings and networks in the eco-friendly era long before we arrived. Coming from the business world, or almost, our expertise is project management and our understanding of the functioning of the business that is at the heart of the production of negative externalities. What I hope is that the BCC format, like TED and TEDx, can give tools, ideas, and keys to an entire growing network.


(1) The Business Climate Convention (BCC) is the direct translation of the “Convention des Entreprises pour le Climat”: 150 business leaders across Europe met during 11 months to align the business world with the Paris Climate Agreement  https://cec-impact.org/
(2) Pour un réveil écologique : « For an ecological awakening », an association of students who aim at “awakening their employer” in light of the climate crisis https://pour-un-reveil-ecologique.org/fr/
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