This morning we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Societe Generale Foundation. At a festive breakfast open to all we enthusiastically celebrated the commitment of the many members of staff who voluntarily give their time and their skills to help non-profit organisations with social integration through employment. Seeing the commitment of our staff outside of their professional roles and engaging with wider civil society is, for me, a great source of pride.
In my experience as the head of a large group, I have come to the firm belief that if there’s one thing that gets a company moving it’s commitment. Commitment involves both “Me” and “Us”. There’s the commitment that encourages each of us to excel in our roles, with the added motivation and personal dedication that pushes us to innovate, to go outside of our comfort zone and enhance the impact we have on our clients. And then there is the collective commitment, where team spirit drives us to move forward together and overcome hurdles by drawing on each other’s skills. Companies that know how to nurture both types of commitment are one step ahead, as they generate greater energy and cohesion than the others.
Commitment lies at the crossroads of a company’s needs and its staff’s’ aspirations, thereby becoming an important driver of transformation. Now more than ever, we need commitment in the banking sector as it faces challenges on many levels. This is why Societe Generale made commitment one of its core values. Whether it’s taking full advantage of the digital revolution, renewing our products, services and structures, reinventing our relations with our customers or adapting our business model to changing economic and financial conditions, we believe in the power of commitment.
Furthermore, we seek to create the conditions in which commitment can thrive. Companies need to encourage initiative-taking, release energy and give meaning to their staff’s commitment. They need to identify shared objectives, suggest reference points to help guide their staff’s actions and promote a common culture that gives everyone’s individual activities a coherent framework. This is the approach we have taken at Societe Generale. We have worked hard to give our values clear meaning and then translate them into everyday behaviours. We have reconceived what we call our Leadership Model, empowering our managers to lead and support change and encouraging our staff to be truly committed to serving our customers. By redefining the framework of our shared commitment, we are reaffirming the meaning and purpose of our role as bankers.
Commitment becomes even more relevant when it extends beyond the boundaries of the company and moves into society at large. We are inherently a committed company, whether with regards to our citizenship engagements or our business activities. The 10th anniversary of the Societe Generale Foundation, which seeks to enable social integration through employment – an area in which companies are well placed to play an important role – gives us the opportunity to reaffirm our engagement. Here too, our company’s commitment is inseparable from that of our staff members. Skills sponsorship and volunteering is at the heart of our citizenship engagement. Our Group invests over €10 million a year in community initiatives around the world, but it is first and foremost a breeding ground that encourages our staff to get directly involved. Pro bono days for partner non-profit organisations, mentoring young people in education or people who find themselves excluded from the world of work, financial education programmes, etc. nearly 15,000 Societe Generale members of staff commit to these initiatives every year.
Private companies are often assumed to have more room for manoeuvre than public sector organisations. Yet, according to a 2015 survey by Opinion Way, 67% of French people think that businesses do too little for society. Although, when they do engage with society, 76% consider the impact positive. So, let’s fully embrace our responsibilities as a committed company, open in an open world, not with arrogance but with determination!