ENGIE’s dedicated Sustainable Development Committee represents a strong commitment to these issues in the way the Group is governed, even though a committee is not one of the recommendations contained in the AFEP-Medef Code 2016. We caught up with Ann-Kristin Achleitner, Group Director and Chair of the Ethics, Environment, and Sustainable Development Committee (CEEDD) to see exactly what it means.
What does the Ethics, Environment, and Sustainable Development Committee (CEEDD) do within the Board of Directors? What are its priorities?
The role played by ENGIE’s CEEDD is unique for both the place it occupies within the Board of Directors, and the way that it approaches the subjects that fall under its remit. The issues that the CEEDD examines are also included in the Group Board of Directors’ internal regulations.
The committee makes sure that the Group’s sustainability strategy is incorporated into all of its strategic decision-making, and delivered on every level. It also works on behalf of the board to keep on top of specific issues with regard to current regulations and realities of society, which are inseparable from the Group’s long-term development.
The CEEDD’s priorities focus on ENGIE’s general involvement in ethical issues, compliance with extra-financial aspects, responsibility towards the environment and society, and its social duty as an employer. That last one is key, because it was consolidated in 2017, and so the CEEDD makes sure it adopts an in-depth approach to human resources. As an example, this year we have paid special attention to gender equality in the workplace. The committee is also looking at the risks that come with the challenges facing the company in its transformation plan – in particular the sale of ENGIE’s shares in Exploration & Production International –, changes to the Group’s health & safety culture, and its quantified report. The committee has also looked at data protection and possible new policies like the CSR policy and the warning process.
As a director, what changes have you seen in how the Board of Directors takes extra-financial aspects into account, or even integrated thinking?
Although France is ahead of the curve when it comes to integrated reporting, there are still very few companies that present their extra-financial indicators on an equal footing with their financial indicators. ENGIE is a leader in the field, a positioning that the Board of Directors is committed to protecting and consolidating every year. I think that “integrated thinking” has always been important to the Board of Directors, but it is all the more fundamental today given that one of the main roles of the Board is to set out a strategy that will create value for ENGIE and all of its stakeholders. The kind of “integrated thinking” we do is with this in mind. It helps us to define the company’s long-term vision, and clearly express it to the market.
This commitment is put into practice in the Group’s governance: the CEEDD reports to the Board of Directors, and works in concert with the other committees. As a director, I’m delighted to say that CSR and inclusion are not treated as second-class issues, but rather as part of a holistic approach. More specifically, in 2017 we held a strategic seminar to identify the main global trends in the environment, society, and technology that affect the Group. In 2017 we also set about identifying the Board’s expertise in line with its strategy, a task that we will be completing again in 2018.
In your view, what is ENGIE’s positioning on these issues? How well do you think integrated thinking is incorporated into its structure? How can it be improved?
Over the past few years, I’ve seen “integrated thinking” spread through the Group’s processes, as well as within its different departments, especially when we have had to arbitrate on new acquisitions, or when making decisions regarding human resources. It can be seen in our commercial offerings, where stakeholder expectations must be taken into account. ENGIE doesn’t just sell energy: it also works in partnership with its customers, NGOs, etc. to “sell decarbonation” and incorporate the challenges facing society into every link in its value chain.
But the most remarkable think I’ve seen for ENGIE, is that “integrated thinking” is perfectly incorporated into the very heart of its strategy, it’s part of what makes ENGIE what it is. ENGIE is the first Group in the CAC 40 to publish an integrated report, and boasts an excellent position in financial and extra-financial reporting. In my view, the professionalism of ENGIE’s integration strategy is a gauge of conviction and credibility. In its report published in 2016, the French Financial Markets Authority highlighted ENGIE as a pioneer in integrated reporting. The Group’s strategy is also applauded by ratings agencies, and ENGIE is listed on the Dow Jones Sustainability World & Europe index, receiving an A for CDP Climate and A- for CDP Water. As all of this illustrates, the Group is hard at work to maintain its position as a leader in integrated thinking. This means that ENGIE is committed to constant improvement and to an even more transparent reporting of its performance to all of its stakeholders.