The Minister of the Economy wants companies in which the State is a shareholder to have a “raison d’être” in 2020. The Pacte law opens up the possibility for companies to take social and environmental issues into account in their objectives , and not just profit.

For Muriel Pénicaud, Minister of Labor, “capitalism is going into the wall if it seeks only financial profit”.

Companies in which the State is a shareholder will have to find a reason to exist. It is not a question of a reason to exist strictly speaking but more prosaically to define a social object. The Civil Code and the Commercial Code have indeed been changed by the Pacte law, promulgated last spring, in order to allow companies that want to define their responsibility in society, beyond the search for profits.

It was Bruno Le Maire, the Minister of the Economy, who announced it Thursday in Bercy. “I ask Martin Vial [le directeur de l’Agence des participations de l’Etat, NDLR] that all companies in which the State is a shareholder endow themselves with a raison d’être in 2020 ”, did he declare. The APE now manages the State’s holdings in 88 companies. Bruno Le Maire also wants “The Public Investment Bank (BPI) is starting the same process in 2020 with the companies in which it invests”, which concerns about 90 companies.

The government wants to be coherent: it has opened up the possibility for French companies to adopt a “raison d’être” and intends to apply it to those in which the State is a shareholder. It thus intends to give impetus to this opportunity to take social and environmental issues into account.

Orange, Atos and a few others

It must be said that, for four months that this possibility has existed, only a few companies have taken it up. Among those in which the State is a shareholder, Orange has launched a reflection to acquire a “raison d’être”, announced its CEO, Stéphane Richard, at the last general meeting of the telecoms operator. Other companies, private or mutual, have taken the plunge. This is the case of Carrefour, Atos, Crédit Agricole and La Maif. Present in Bercy, the president of the insurer, Pascal Demurger, explained that“Beyond a conviction, it is a public strategic commitment and therefore irreversible”. Besides, “Companies that have not found a reason to exist will have difficulty recruiting and convincing their customers”, wants to believe Bruno Le Maire.

“Capitalism is going through the wall”

Each in their own style, since the emergence of the “yellow vests”, the ministers no longer have enough harsh words to castigate the excesses of “hypercapitalism”. And they were no exception at Bercy on Thursday. For Muriel Pénicaud, the Minister of Labor, “Capitalism goes to the wall if it seeks only financial profit. This will lead to protectionism and nationalism, which will be bad for business and democracy ”.

In the daily “La Croix”, last week, Bruno Le Maire judged that “20th century capitalism is no longer viable”. He added to have “Started making decisions to build a new capitalism in the Pacte law”.

This new capitalism will first be tested in public enterprises, Bercy decided. The State wants to be exemplary in social and environmental matters. Except that in the public service, in 2015, 68% of contract workers on fixed-term contracts had a contract lasting less than one year …