Corporate Purpose: From Intention to Action?

Written by

Margaux Barclay Senior Strategist | Marion Bentivenga Strategy Director | Constance Braun Senior Strategist | Julie Lattes Managing Director | Emilie Prattico Senior Strategy Director |

Jun 14, 2022 · 4-minute read

The PACTE law has had an accelerating effect on the adoption of Purpose statements by large French companies: in 2019, only 12% of the firms in the CAC 40 had articulated a Purpose and only three years later, they are nearly 80% (and close to 60% of the SBF 120).

However, the notion of Purpose is not yet well-known among employees: our survey indicates that two-thirds of employees in large French companies do not really know what the notion refers to and only 35% declare with certainty that their company has articulated a Purpose.

The large groups that make up the CAC 40 have sought to be authentic when articulating their Purpose statements, most often favoring collaborative work to uncover it. The vast majority of Purpose articulations cover broad societal issues. 90% of statements go beyond a focus on customers and instead, focus on aspirations for a better future, for society at large. Moreover, two out of three Purpose statements incorporate environmental concerns.

Beyond articulation, large companies have begun to embed their Purpose through concrete initiatives, as discussed by the leaders interviewed as part of the study:

  • Bernard Charlès, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Systèmes, explains how the company has redefined its vision of its activity and its role in society in light of their Purpose.
  • Jean-Philippe Puig, CEO of Avril, mentions the way in which their Purpose has been integrated throughout their employee’s experience and lifecycle. Purpose guides Avril’s onboarding process, trainings, leadership model and is even taken into account during performance reviews.
  • Carrefour’s “Act for Food” program is an example of how Purpose can lead to improvements for customers through evolving product offerings and encouraging new forms of responsible consumption, as explained by Carine Kraus, Director of Engagement at Carrefour. Jean-Pascal Tricoire, Chairman and CEO at Schneider Electric presents his Group’s new sustainable development consulting offer aimed at better supporting their customers changing needs.
  • Adrienne Horel-Pagès, Director of Citizen Engagement at La Banque Postale, cites the co-development of responsible offerings with its entire ecosystem of partners who are mobilized around creating citizen-centric solutions. Initiatives related to governance and strategy are less common: only one third of the companies in the CAC 40 have undertaken concrete initiatives to better align their strategy with their Purpose and to develop their governance model. However, the following initiatives deserve mention:
    • Orange
      Christel Heydemann, Chief Executive Officer and Elizabeth Tchoungui, Executive Director of CSR, Diversity and Solidarity of the Group discuss the creation of the Purpose Committee at Orange (Comité Raison d’Agir) that ensures the operationalization of Purpose.
    • Michelin
      Florent Menegaux, its President, presents how the Group’s entire strategic plan is directly linked and aligned with their Purpose.

Employees of large French companies voice growing expectations vis-à-vis the power of Purpose:

  • 61% of employees whose company has a Purpose perceive that the company has mostly used it as a communication and brand positioning tool.
  • 73% of employees whose company has not articulated a Purpose yet believe that it should guide the company’s strategy and operations.
  • 44% of employees of large French companies say that their annual performance review takes into account their contribution to their company’s Purpose, while 71% of employees whose companies have not yet articulated a Purpose would like it to.
  • Finally, according to 71% of employees surveyed, a Purpose should allow a company to encourage its entire ecosystem to become more engaged.

To ensure a smooth transition from intention to action and allow Purpose to live its full potential, it seems essential to us to pursue several opportunities mentioned in this study:

  1. Evolve governance accordingly and implement Purpose monitoring systems
  2. Adapt the leadership model and the value proposition for employees
  3. Pursue all opportunities to link a company’s Purpose and its strategic or operational choices
  4. Implement new performance and impact indicators, that balance short and medium-term objectives with a company’s long-term vision
  5. Embed Purpose in the customer experience and employee experience

The leaders interviewed are unanimous on the matter: the articulation of a Purpose statement is only the beginning of the journey. It then takes years for its impact to materialize.

Read More


"*" indicates required fields


Tell us how we can partner together.