Olivier Lenel (Mazars): "81% of French people think companies have the power to effect change"

Last year, Mazars conducted a survey of over 2,100 French people to get their thoughts on what the general public believed businesses could do to help the country recover from the crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Mazars' managing director Olivier Lenel decodes the results for Leaders League.

Posted mercredi, juillet 27 2022
Olivier Lenel (Mazars): "81% of French people think companies have the power to effect change"

Leaders League: What were the objectives of the "Building a way out of the crisis” survey and resulting white paper?
Olivier Lenel:
We took the decision to explore the question of what it meant to be a conscious company in the current context, in order to bring clarity to the entire economic ecosystem about just what was expected of us from the people of France, but as a company we also wanted the feedback so Mazars could do more for the good of society. Beyond having a front row seat for this project, we want to show that Mazars is an engaged company.

We called upon the resourcefulness of our partners to bring this project to life. Two complementary surveys were conducted; a qualitative one run by the think-tank Free Thinking, which got the input of 143 respondents, and the other, organized by the pollster Viavoice, that had a sample size of 2,000, which we feel was large enough to be representative of the views of the French population.

What were the main issues that these surveys brought to light?
We were particularly struck by the faith the public have in their country’s companies, which they believe can be a force for good. 81% of French people think companies have the power to effect change in the post-pandemic era. In fact, they have more confidence in the ability of those in the private sector to take meaningful action than in public bodies. Companies come in second position on this metric, after citizens themselves.

Nevertheless 57% of those surveyed thought that companies have not stuck to the commitments they made at the height of the pandemic. This is a worryingly high number and caused much soul searching at Mazars and a resolve to redouble our efforts.

A CEO is indistinguishable from the company they run, in the eyes of the man or woman on the street

The concept of profit with purpose was another key takeaway from this research. Actually, 88% of those surveyed saw no reason why companies couldn’t be both profitable and act in the general interest. Another interesting finding was that a CEO is indistinguishable from the company they run, in the eyes of the man or woman on the street. Solidarity, responsibility, benevolence, honesty and transparency are the qualities bosses and the companies they lead must demonstrate through their actions.

Lastly, there was a lot of emphasis on French savoir-faire, and that goes beyond just technical excellence. Allying local know-how with international competitivity was judged the right approach to take by nine out of ten respondents. Food for thought!

How does Mazars position itself as a conscious company?
We are already active on many fronts in this regard. We have been a backer of many cultural and heritage projects in France for years. In 2022, we took the decision to sponsor the Sensory Odyssey show at the Museum of Natural History, an exhibition whose theme is preserving biodiversity. The exhibition debuts on October 22nd.  

Demonstrating our commitment to worthy causes, we decided to keep our non-commercial sponsorship budget in 2020 and 2021 at pre-pandemic levels. Maintaining our culture of engagement, come what may, helps the company to play a vital role in society.

We are versatile in our engagements too: we also support charities, such as Les Déterminés [The Determined], which is doing great work to help the next generation of French entrepreneurs from working class communities get their businesses off the ground.  

Another pressing challenge is equality. Mazars has made great strides on this topic, but we want to do even more and are continuously looking for ways to help women reach their potential. Currently 47% of staff classed as high-potential are female, up from a quarter a decade ago. We are not far from reaching parity.

Furthermore, Mazars provides an essential public service by developing the leaders and luminaries of tomorrow. This is something we take great pride in and consciously cultivate on a daily basis. 

Did Mazars recruitment policy carry on as normal during the pandemic as well?
We tried to maintain solidarity in recruitment during the pandemic, notably through interns, which we are used to showing the ropes in the hope that they will become future full-time members of staff. In 2022 we intend to recruit a thousand new employees across the globe.

Transitioning out of the coronacrisis, we are in a period of reunion and rediscovery, as staff come back to in-person work. Last autumn, we took the decision to hold in-person seminars for 1,500 staff in September and October and also hosted an event at Mazars headquarters that brought together 1,700 staff.

We are emerging from a very difficult period. Finding balance will not come easily and there is no magic formula that will restore our professional interactions to the way they were prior to 2020, but we are committed to doing everything we can to help staff adjust.

One of the ways we can do this is by providing staff with an expanded range of services, such as childcare facilities, company bicycles and wellness programmes.