Session

Building Bridges: The Global-Local Connection in Building Sustainability Strategies

With tens or even hundreds of subsidiaries around the world, multinational companies face challenges aligning global and local strategies while adapting to the local context. Companies and individuals need to overcome different understandings of priorities and context, limited internal capacity and bandwidth to manage multiple markets, and different communication and cultural styles. What are the new approaches and methodologies necessary to meet local needs and develop, align, and integrate global sustainability strategies? What are the most effective approaches for staffing, capacity building, learning, and experience sharing? This timely one-hour conversation will address these issues.

Speakers

  • Didier Terrolle, Associate Vice President, Excellence in CSR, Sanofi
  • Neil Barrett, Group Vice President, Sustainable Development, Sodexo
  • Guy Morgan, Director, Advisory Services, BSR (Moderator)

Highlights

  • Global strategies should take local input into account and be flexible so that they can be adapted for the local context.

  • While enacting a global CSR strategy, companies should engage local managers and help them understand they are part of a larger picture by connecting local activities with the global CSR strategy.

  • There is no standard methodology for determining which issues are material for any particular company. Companies need to choose a methodology that meets their needs.

Memorable Quotes

“We created a road map, a framework, to give priorities to issues that are important to them in their country.” —Neil Barrett, Sodexo

“We are able to connect the activities of our employees at the unit level with the overarching mission of Sodexo. It really engages them in being an employee of the organization.” —Rachel Sylvan, Sodexo

“Listen to others and don’t assume that what is done at the corporate level meets local needs. Provide training and tools, and listen.” —Didier Terrolle, Sanofi

Overview

Guy Morgan from BSR opened the session by introducing the panelists and commenting that its goal was to discuss how to foster connections between global and local CSR strategy design and deployment. He then asked the panelists to provide an overview of what CSR looks like at each of their respective companies. Terrolle began by noting Sanofi’s status as one of the top five leaders in pharmaceuticals with US$45 billion in sales and 112 manufacturing sites in 40 countries. Terrolle explained that the head of CSR reports directly to the CEO and chairs both the risk committee and bioethics community, demonstrating CSR’s importance to the company. Sanofi recently conducted a materiality assessment and developed six global strategic CSR priorities.

Barrett highlighted that Sodexo differs sharply from Sanofi, with CSR having been embedded in the company culture from the start when their founder outlined the company mission to “improve the quality of life of all those we serve” and “contribute to the economic, social, and environmental development of the cities, regions, and countries where we operate.” Sodexo’s Better Tomorrow (BT) road map helps to define their strategy and align their people and business around a common framework.

Morgan then asked Barrett how Sodexo’s approach works in practice. Barrett answered that when designing BT they looked at all the initiatives around the globe and saw that they were being carried out in isolation. BT was designed over 12 months to align the business and provide focus.

In keeping with a recurring theme at this BSR Conference, Morgan asked Terrolle to provide his thoughts on the myth of the omnipotent CEO. Terrolle emphasized that CEOs must be aligned with CSR priorities and that they face pressure from ratings agencies and stakeholders to integrate CSR into their companies. It’s important for the “corporate machine” to push on hot topics to drive cultural change.

Next, Morgan asked Terrolle to elaborate on where they are in terms of deploying a strategy that resonates locally. Terrolle acknowledged that there is no standard methodology for determining which issues are material for any particular company. Companies need to choose a methodology that meets their needs. Sanofi chose to include opinions of 100 stakeholders, including the top 30 managers, to define materiality and gain buy-in. Barrett commented that Sodexo created a road map that allowed employees in individual countries to emphasize priorities that resonated with them. These priorities can differ significantly and reflect local employees’ concerns about the environment and the community more broadly.

Following that discussion, Morgan asked each panelist, “How do they ensure there is some element of bottoms-up as well?” Barrett responded that Sodexo has set up a governance structure that addresses the issue of capturing insights and expertise through the sharing of best practices, key performance indicators (KPIs), reports, and surveys. CSR elements are included in employees’ performance metrics to incentivize them.

Morgan asked Terrolle to explain how they ensure that Sanofi’s six CSR priorities capture the local context. He responded that their networks at the corporate and country levels collaborate. These priorities are set up in such a way that every region can identify with them and implement them as they see fit. Sanofi is developing a toolkit that employees in individual countries will use to understand major sub-issues and address them.

Morgan then turned to the audience and asked if there were any country-level representatives from either company who could elaborate on how the global CSR strategy gets implemented locally. Rachel Sylvan of Sodexo North America explained that local input is an overlay to their global priorities and doesn’t change the overarching commitment or priorities. They engage managers at the site level and help them understand that they are part of a larger picture by connecting local activities with the overarching company mission.

Morgan then asked Barrett to provide an example of a difficulty in pushing the global strategy out to the local level. Barrett described a situation where he got pushback from a country for budgetary reasons, emphasizing that CSR plans have to be realistic and translated in order for employees to understand their importance and benefit to them at the local level. Terrolle commented that it is arrogant to proclaim at the corporate level that these are the six priorities you need to address; for that reason, Sanofi allows some flexibility and enable employees to identify additional priorities at the local level.

Following a brief Q&A with the audience, Morgan asked each participant to share a parting thought. Barrett responded, “A better tomorrow starts today, and it starts with you.” Terrolle said that you need to “listen to others, and don’t assume that what is done at the corporate level meets local needs. Provide training and tools, and listen.”

Date

November 5, 2014