Towards public policies with greater social impact

“Since 2018 there has been a significant increase in the consideration of social and environmental impact in public policies, observes William Bottaro, Mazars’ health and medical and social partner. This social approach, which could be assumed to be very French, actually comes from the Anglo-Saxon countries. It first infused the social and solidarity economy sector, starting in 2010, before extending to other segments of the public sector. » It was initially to differentiate that the actors involved in the implementation of public policies wanted to improve their social impact. The latter has been progressively consolidated as a key argument for the sustainable strengthening of the competitiveness and attractiveness of the public sector, especially with regard to procurement. “This is a crucial and priority issue for all public organizations, and especially for sectors with high pressure, such as health or social, which are struggling to hire”illustrated by William Bottaro.

To this search for renewed interest is added the growing pressure from civil society and stakeholders in favor of more responsible behavior, which must go beyond the stage of commitment, which is insufficient, and translate in tangible actions for the citizenry. It is important to keep in mind that public policies work through redistributive mechanisms. However, it is sometimes difficult for citizens to see the concrete effects of this redistribution in their daily lives, to visualize and materialize what their taxes contribute to. Working to improve the social impact of public policies also means trying to show how they can, for example, benefit local employment or the environmental preservation of a territory. “Explains Jean-François Treille, Mazars’ public sector partner.

After the will, place in the implementation

An impactful public policy is therefore a public policy that goes beyond its basic mission, such as ensuring access to quality care or education, with the aim of producing positive cross-cutting effects, for the benefit of society as a whole. “The public authorities have given a profound impetus to this search for social and environmental impact, which was still abstract a few years ago. Today, the various action plans that are being deployed at the national level show that public sector actors have gone far beyond the stage of laudable and symbolic intent. », Analyzes William Bottaro.

Among these responsible initiatives is the National Plan for Sustainable Purchasing (Pnad) for the period 2022-2025. It is established, among other things, that by 2025, all public procurement contracts notified during the year must include at least an environmental consideration, and at least 30% of the contracts a social consideration. “Increasingly varied and complementary matters of general interest are now being integrated into public procurement, such as gender equality, the fight against discrimination, unfair social competition, the development of learning, respect for ethical requirements … While we can only be delighted with these necessary changes, it is clear that the step to be taken to reach the 30% target is still particularly high. In 2019, only 12.5% ​​of the contracts included a social consideration, when the target was then 25% ”. underlines Jean-François Treille.

Another initiative, this time collaborative: the social impact contract, whose ambition is to promote the emergence of innovative social and environmental projects. “It is about executing virtuous projects funded by private or public actors, projects that the state undertakes to reimburse if the objectives set at the beginning are achieved”, says William Bottaro. So far, several calls for expressions of interest have been launched and the winners have been announced.

They are left to explore the throttle levers

However, beyond the actions mentioned, the two experts agree that the actual deployment of impact devices will require the implementation of methodologies and measurement tools essential for performance monitoring. “The maturity is obviously not the same for all projects, nor for all areas of public action. From now on, the challenge is to establish a structured and standardized universe, as already exists in the private sector. For the boom to be real and progress to be visible to as many people as possible, social impacts must be able to be monitored and piloted, which means that they can be measured. ”insists Jean-François Treille.

Clearly, tougher regulation could accelerate the adoption of more responsible practices, as has been observed once again in the private sector. A limitation to which experts do not necessarily declare themselves in favor, preferring to highlight to public actors the economic benefits that derive from impact initiatives or even from the labeling process. “In order to transform itself in a sustainable way, the public sector must adopt a global and holistic approach that integrates the full value of projects, which is not yet the case. By way of illustration, the establishment of a health center in a territory is an asset, certainly in terms of access to care, but also in terms of employment and local communities – for both school and transportation. The challenge is to bring a new perspective to these impact projects, because understanding their real scope would encourage more than ever the investments they need ”.concluded William Bottaro.

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