Pierre Baret's Interview,
"Sustainable research
that's useful in society"

  • Pierre Baret
27 January 2020

It was, of course, not between two flights but rather between two train journeys that Pierre Baret answered Inside Excelia's questions. As Professor, Director of IRSI, which is our Institute for Sustainability through Innovation, and the person within Excelia Group responsible for CSR, Pierre had just returned from a seminar on extra-financial reporting for the Fleury-Michon Group.

So, you are considered Mr. CSR for Excelia Group, are you not?

I am certainly not the only one, IRSI brings together a dozen very competent research-active faculty members around CSR issues. Many of them adopt a certain type of research methodology such as research-intervention, which consists of accompanying companies in the implementation of change whilst observing and analysing how it is carried out. We are like a methodological guarantor of how to adopt the "right" approach to CSR. From our empirical observations and theoretical analyses, beyond simply bringing a managerial contribution, we offer a pedagogical approach and, last but not least, academic contribution. In fact, this research publication activity plays an essential part in our ability to obtain accreditations.

The IRSI Institute is active in many corporate networks, within groups such as RER (Rencontres Environnementales de La Rochelle - La Rochelle environmental meetings), that bring together organisations such as Air France Industrie, LVMH, EDF, Bureau Veritas, Alstom and Rémy Cointreau etc. We also coordinated the ADERSE Congress (Association pour le Développement et l'Enseignement de la RSE - Association for the Development and Teaching of CSR), and, in September 2019, we organised the RIODD Conference (Réseau International des Organisations pour le Développement Durable - International Network of Organisations for Sustainable Development). On an international level, we co-organise an annual CSR workshop with the European Management Association.

In addition to IRSI, I lead the Group's CSR activity. Every month, I organise a research seminar during which internal and external researchers are invited to present their work.

La Rochelle Business School has just been ranked in 5th place in France by Le Point for its CSR education. Does that make you happy?

Of course it does! However, Le Point ranking rewards the work of a high-quality team of teachers and lecturers and the pioneering spirit of the School. We mustn't forget that our very first Master-level qualification in Sustainable Development dates back to 1999, and the first CSR course was introduced in 2005. Our differentiation also lies in our research-intervention approach and what it engenders. For example, the real-life issues facing the company which I was working with today can immediately be fed into my lessons with students next Monday, which ensures that our CSR teaching is totally up-to-date.

Yes, of course, this interview is taking place just after your visit to Fleury-Michon, at their Cambrai site, where you have contributed to the implementation of an extra-financial reporting system. Can you explain what that entails?

This extra-financial reporting system not only takes into account the traditional financial side of things but also considers new social and environmental issues. This forces the company to review and reorganise its business model... and it really works! It must be said that we work with a small group of companies that are very much ahead of the game, they don't just talk about CSR, they actually put real initiatives into place. In fact, Hautier Transport Group has just signed up for another 3-year period with La Rochelle Business School and, Corolo, the Compagnie rochelaise du logiciel, has just signed a patronage agreement.

If you'd like to know more, you can consult our Sustainable Development Report which was published in November. It not only contains all the information you need as regards our progress in terms of Corporate Social Responsibility, but also in terms of education, teaching and our standing in the region.

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