The Catholic University of Paris (ICP, Institut Catholique de Paris) and ESSEC announce the launch of the “Business and the Common Good” research and teaching chair, under the direction of Maurice Thévenet, professor of management (ESSEC), Émilie Tardivel, professor of philosophy (ICP) and Marc Fassier, professor of ethics and theology (ICP). The objective of this chair is to develop research which is both multidisciplinary, at the crossroads of the humanities and business sciences, and multi-sectoral, bringing together scientists and political, economic and social leaders.
There is a growing awareness in our contemporary world that the common good is the responsibility of a multiplicity of players, and that the state no longer has the sole responsibility, nor the capacity, for ensuring it.
Today, business organizations are in the frontline among these players. Thanks to their financial resources and thanks to the effects of profound transformations (globalization, destatization and supranationalization), they have also become extremely powerful political and social agents.
The COVID-19 pandemic is already giving rise to a multifaceted crisis: economic and social; political and spiritual. One of first effects was to strengthen public authority significantly and to accelerate the pre-existing trend towards the co-definition and co-production of the common good by public and private entities in an unprecedented way.
In this context, the Chair will integrate this multidisciplinary and multisectoral research into student training and will participate in the co-construction of innovative practices with collaborators from the Chair’s corporate partners.
The Common good: ICP’s expertise for an inspiring partnership with ESSEC
With its expertise in the human and social sciences, the ICP has used its network of relationships with socio-economic players and its prestigious academic heritage to produce cutting-edge education and research which sheds new light on major contemporary issues through original insights. It has been training individuals to be capable of fulfilling their professional duties with a deep understanding of the strategic challenges of the society in which they live. Thanks to the ICP’s first research Chair on the theme of the “common good”, founded in 2016, the ICP laid the foundations of a shareable experience in terms of research and achievements. From 2016 to 2020, the ICP “Common Good” Chair developed a multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral approach to assess the relevance of this concept in the political, economic, social and environmental fields.
True to its pioneering spirit and to the humanist values ingrained in its French roots, ESSEC Business School has always had a strong commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) issues. It was in this spirit it founded: its first social entrepreneurship chair with its incubator for start-ups operating in the field of the social economy (Antropia ESSEC); its first Philanthropy Chair; its first “Equal Opportunity” program; and, most recently, the first finance chair focusing on Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) in 2020.
In 2020, ESSEC launched Together, its strategic approach to support and guide the ecological and social transition of our society through training and research, by implementing an ambitious approach in conjunction with its stakeholders and the communities within which it operates.
Developing research for business innovation
Saint-Gobain, Korian, Meridiam, Grant Thornton and Bayard Presse all found the framework proposed by the Chair aligned with their own concerns, as well as with the challenges they face in their respective sectors. As such, they have chosen to support and join this program as partners, in order to be involved in the collaborative construction of innovative tools and practices that bring to life, in a very concrete way, their CSR approach.
The issue of the common good in business arises in three dimensions:
1 - Economy, society and ecology
Companies operate within complex social and natural ecosystems while at the same time being governed by their own norms and institutions. Until now, the issues of economy, society and ecology were defined in terms of CSR. However, the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic calls for a paradigm shift.
2 - Management and governance
Companies are complex ecosystems in and of themselves. In French law, a business is defined as a “lawful object and created for the common interest” (see Sénart-Notat report, March 2018) driven by a “raison d'être” (see French Action Plan for the Business Companies’ Growth and Transformation [PACTE] law, May 2019). As such, the question of the common good affects both their internal mode of functioning and their ultimate purpose.
3 - Work, freedom and commitment
Companies are made up of people who work together, using their individual freedom in the service of a collective result. The issue of the common good therefore also concerns the responsibility and commitment of each individual.
Each of these dimensions will be addressed by the Chair through its research, training and innovation activities, with a constant concern for the issues specific to the Chair’s corporate partners.
Training tomorrow’s leaders, future players of the common good
Starting in the 2021/2022 academic year, the chair offers a “learning expedition” for master’s and doctoral students. This original training program lasts one semester (from January to June), and is built on a strong interconnection between research and coursework, and between theory and practice.
Students are selected on the basis of their academic record and on an interview, held between October and November.
Philippe Bordeyne, Rector of the ICP, explained that “The partnership with ESSEC and the Chair’s corporate partners is based on innovative interactions between academic research and entrepreneurial practice, which are absolutely necessary to advance CSR. The ICP is proud to contribute to an ethical approach to complex issues.”
Vincenzo Vinzi, Dean and President of ESSEC Business School, added: “Collectively, we are facing major economic, ecological, health and social challenges that call for action. In this complex period of rapid and profound change, companies, organizations and their leaders have a key role to play in responding to these challenges and undertaking projects that are not only economically efficient, but also inclusive, innovative, sustainable and respectful. This new Chair will contribute to in-depth reflection on how to support and engage in these revolutions for the common good.”
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