“The country does not need culprits, it needs solutions! »

Antoine Frerot (Photo by Renaud Khanh / ABACAPRESS.COM)

After making Veolia-Suez the world leader in environmental services (37 billion euros in turnover), Antoine Frérot, 63, at the head of the “Institut de l’Entreprise”, weighs in on the electoral debate .

Why this unprecedented approach of the Institute of Business around 15 economic proposals for the presidential election?

Antoine Frerot: The mission of the business institute, is to bring the French and companies together. This campaign is an opportunity to consolidate the new contract of trust that we have seen developed in recent years. Companies want to play their part in solving the challenges that concern our fellow citizens: ecological crisis, economic and social fractures, persistent unemployment, growing public debt …

Its resolution will require the mobilization and cooperation of all actors capable of acting: the state, local bodies, citizens and, of course, companies. So let’s say this to presidential candidates – trust companies to help improve society! Through our proposals, we submit to public debate the conditions for them to change the scale of their impact.

Do French people rely more on business leaders than politicians to change the situation?

DOES: It would be sterile and dangerous to oppose it. The country does not need culprits, it needs solutions! And it is clear that companies are part of the solution. This is a belief that drives all business leaders, and that the French share: according to a study that the business institute conducted in 2020 with ELABE, 2 out of 3 French said companies have the power to improve the world today. The Covid crisis has not stopped this trend, on the contrary. During this period, companies have demonstrated their ability to stay the course and change the game. But let’s be clear, it’s not about acting instead of politicians, it’s about replacing public authorities. On the contrary, we want to do “with”, do “together”. The French demand it and the complexity of the challenges demands it.

You have worked 4 hemes in co-construction with companies and citizens. Explain yourself.

DOES: We opted for an innovative and different approach bringing together 50 business leaders from all sectors and representing all sizes of companies. His proposals were then presented to 14 panels of citizens, from all regions, including Corsica and overseas. It is this perspective shared between companies and citizens that gives double legitimacy to the 15 proposals we have made. We were guided by the constant concern for a concrete and short-term impact on the lives of employees and the French. And these issues have been identified as major in the eyes of the French.

Employability, for example, has become a key issue. Many expect their companies to help them stay skilled in a job market plagued by digitalization and technology. The quality of life at work, the association with benefits, are also strong expectations of employees. What is at stake for companies is their ability to attract and retain employees and remain competitive in rapidly changing markets.

Finally, with regard to the energy and climate transition, companies are important players whose role, however, is not well known. However, they are the key to changing the scale in the transformation of production and consumption patterns. And they are determined to act, fast and strong.

Bringing the French closer to the company is first and foremost about equal opportunities, training, the “employer brand” today?

DOES: Not only that, but partly yes. And the proposals we make in the context of this presidential election go in that direction. Let’s get training. What we are saying is that we must strengthen, for equal opportunities, the dynamic collaboration between National Education and the business world. The lack of knowledge and understanding of the challenges of the professional world expands very soon to schooling. It is also a source of profound inequalities in guidance, between students who have access, thanks to their environment or their teachers, to the realities of the company, and those who are deprived of it.

More generally, it is the strengthening and enhancement of the “meaning” and “usefulness” of corporate missions that will bring them even closer to the French. We must develop “citizen satisfaction” in the same way that we aim to achieve “customer satisfaction”.

How to give more meaning to work and that flexibility does not rhyme more precariously?

DOES: The question of meaning is indeed fundamental, I tend to say that a company is prosperous when it proves its usefulness. It attracts workers for the same reasons. We need to listen to new aspirations that may previously seem utopian. It’s not so much the flexibility that employees demand as the ability to change status depending on the life projects they may have at any given time.

This application, the business institute he heard her. We propose to decompartmentalize the models of paid and self-employed work, so that it is possible, for employees who so wish, to combine the possibilities offered by these two statuses.

What proposals do you make to candidates to reconcile the increase in purchasing power and the reduction of entrepreneurial costs?

DOES: We are making a very specific proposal in this area. We believe that by lowering the tax burden on participation and profit sharing through the social package, which increased significantly in 2012, companies could increase the redistribution they operate towards their employees. These tools are extremely powerful, especially because they are subject to lower social security contributions than premiums.

How to accelerate the challenge of decarbonisation in French companies?

DOES: In this matter of general interest, we must focus on the synergy between the public and private sectors. We are complementary. If we want to succeed in the energy and climate transition, tomorrow we will need the strike force of companies to have terminals everywhere to recharge clean vehicles, eco-responsible buildings, carbon-free energy sources … Without companies, the transition to scale . of these projects will be simply impossible. There is another accelerator that should not be overlooked: public procurement, which is the subject of one of our proposals.

The Law ” Climate and resilience of 2021 provided for public procurement to include CSR criteria in its calls. The application needs to be accelerated, because in France, public procurement alone accounts for more than 9% of GDP. It is clear that the domino effect of such a large mass of purchases can only be colossal in terms of improving the carbon footprint of companies in France.

What commitments do you expect from candidates to reindustrialize the country?

AF: There are many factors; I will quote two. First, we need to go back to the causes of deindustrialization; products made abroad were cheaper. To seriously relocate certain productions, the French must be prepared and accept that our social model has a cost to local production. Without this acceptance, relocations will remain limited because, even with innovation, producing in France will remain more expensive.

This is the price of our social model. Then, to reindustrialize you really need skills, engineers, skilled workers. However, we observe a clear tendency of students to divest in mathematics; and when it comes to skilled workers, we have a lot of difficulty hiring, even when people are offered to train them from A to Z. In recent years, the business institute therefore, he has worked hard to reverse the image of learning. They have advanced and we must not relax our efforts.

Many entrepreneurs expect strong decisions in terms of business succession, reduction of public spending, reduction of the administrative layer and regulations. What does the Institute ask for?

DOES: The meaning of all our proposals is to facilitate business action, strengthen best practices and change the scale of our impact. It is important to remember that 99.8% of companies in the country are SMEs that are often not equipped to implement many measures, such as participation or profit sharing, which would really benefit their employees, but they are too heavy to set them up administratively. Our second goal is the incentive, because we believe deeply in the capacity for collective formation through the most virtuous companies. It is time for companies to commit, we must continue on this path by encouraging those with best practices.

Interview with Valerie Loctin

Leave a Comment