Coming from a civil society background, Ms Sophie Auconie MEP was both an employee and an artisan before engaging in politics. Her professional experience has allowed her to understand what enterprises expect from politicians and from Europe, but also what they can bring to the European Union, in terms of economic policies and general philosophy.
Pushing for more sustainable and responsible public spending, Ms. Auconie will support the development of social entrepreneurship during the European elections campaign in 2014.
Some consider Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as yet another marketing tool. Others see it as a true revolution. Where do you stand?
I don’t think it is marketing at all. I think in the days of our parents and grandparents, there was already a natural, implicit form of CSR (with companies like Peugeot, Michelin, and Leclerc). Although environmental imperatives weren’t taken into account yet, corporate culture was extraordinarily paternalistic and very social.
Companies today need to undertake certain steps in that direction, as entrepreneurs and employees are being turned against each other. The economic crisis, current policies and governments tend to create a fracture – or at least a gap – between these two codependent poles. I do not believe this is appropriate.
What can be concluded from the 2011 Social Business Initiative launched by the European Commission?
An important point on Commissioner for Internal Market Michel Barnier’s agenda, this initiative is part of a proactive action towards economic growth. Finally! So far, Europe has mainly tried to repair leaks on a sinking ship. But after fixing our swaying European Union, we are giving ourselves the power to act! Social entrepreneurship is an essential lever for growth, a civil measure allowing the financial world to change its face and show solidarity with an economy in bad shape, through the creation of the new European label that is the European Social Entrepreneurship Funds (EuSEF).
Through this measure of support to social entrepreneurship and fair investment, the European Union moves closer to its citizens.
How do you explain that certain initiatives such as the Environmental Grenelle in France did not lead to concrete outcomes?
The current economic crisis unfortunately forbids citizens and enterprises from receiving new rules and constraints with a positive mindset, as they usually involve more taxes. They do not see this financial potential as a way to change attitudes. They only see it as a new hindrance on their competitiveness.
The economic crisis worries and makes people lose hope. It is going to be more and more difficult to make citizens and enterprises own these European policies. With time this will change: we will find time to re-value these policies. But today, it remains very complicated, I have to say.
How does the European People’s Party (EPP) plan to make companies aware of their responsibilities in this worrying economic context?
The EPP always stood for the freedom of entrepreneurship but at the same time, it wants to make companies aware of their responsibilities. Sometimes, these requirements are difficult to reconcile and being ambitious enough at the environmental level, for example, can be tricky. We should not stop working on a number of norms because of the crisis. Our companies need coherence.
Regarding social entrepreneurship, the EPP is very much in favour of it, as it pushes for more responsible management. Members of the European Parliament (MEP) belonging to the EPP feel that we need a more sustainable and responsible management policy for public money. Public authorities should take advantage of the crisis to change their behaviour – crises are good opportunities to change direction.
The Europe 2020 strategy aims at developing an inclusive growth. However, women are currently underrepresented in senior positions in companies. What do you suggest to improve the situation?
I am pretty schizophrenic regarding women quotas’ issue: I am against them by principle but I consider that today they are actually essential. Despite our law on equal representation, we are only 14% of women in the French National Assembly and 18% in the Senate. In the European Parliament, thanks to these quotas, we are 34%. I like to remind people of these numbers: we are 52% of the world’s population!
The law on equal representation is essential today but I hope that what women are going to do will help change mentalities. And tomorrow, gender equality will impose itself naturally. It is a long-term fight.
Finally, what would you like to say to people of foreign origin who hold the nationality of an EU Member State, to encourage participation in the European elections 2014?
If, through their history or their family’s history, they found a place in the European Union and if they earn wealth thanks to their work, then there must be some relation between them and Europe, just as there are some between companies and the European institutions. New Europeans bring new ways of thinking that can nourish our own. It can only be an added value for Europe!
Click on the following links to read the article and the transcript in French:
– Article_French: http://unitee.eu/pdf/2013-06-20_Auconie_Blogarticle_FR.pdf
– Transcript_French: http://unitee.eu/pdf/2013-06-20_Auconie_Transcript_FR.pdf