CSR issues are becoming increasingly important in legal departments

17% of legal directors devote their time to setting up their company’s CSR framework according to *the Observatory of Legal Departments 2022 published by the law firm De Gaulle Fleurance & Associés, in partnership with the French Association of Jurists company (AFJE).

“At De Gaulle Fleurance & Associés, we support companies in all of their transitions”explains Stéphane Baller, Lawyer Of Counsel and author of the study. “This is why it seemed so important to us to take stock of the generalization of CSR issues and its consequences on the role of the in-house lawyer, which is becoming more and more strategic. As 7 out of 10 legal directors report to the CEO or chairman of their company, these new challenges lead them to work with even greater proximity to their governance”.

Under the effect of the latest legislative and regulatory developments (compulsory extra-financial performance declaration for large companies, duty of care to prevent social and environmental risks, Sapin 2 law to better detect corruption, Pacte law giving companies the possibility to acquire a purpose or to adopt the status of a company with a mission), CSR issues are taking an increasingly important place within legal departments.

The Observatory of Legal Departments 2022 reveals that these issues are integrated at the highest level of general management. In fact, 81% of them closely monitor the implementation of the CSR framework in their company. Similarly, 93% of the shareholders and management of the companies in the sample encourage the consideration of CSR.

Adaptation of companies to the CSR frameworkreason to be

The legal departments still seem to be in a phase of adaptation to this new framework: 37% believe that they are reacting to the legal texts, 29% are in the study phase to put in place procedures and tools and only 13% consider themselves visionaries with a strategic and optimized approach that allows them to put CSR at the heart of the functioning of legal procedures.

Nevertheless, it can be noted that CSR issues represent 17% of the time of the legal departments. While 40% of respondents have not yet worked on their company’s purpose, 28% have adopted one and 31% are considering it for the future. It should also be noted that the status of company with a mission is mentioned very little (3%), with legal directors considering this choice too ambitious for their company.

Changing practices

controlThe duty of vigilance law introduced in 2017 has changed the practices of nearly one in two legal departments (43%), including in certain companies that are not yet concerned, in particular by increasing their level of knowledge of suppliers, third parties and subsidiaries.

Similarly, one out of two legal departments (53%) supported their company, in the extension of the PACTE law, in the development of its practices, particularly in terms of executive compensation by integrating CSR aspects into the criteria for performance evaluation.

In addition, more than one in two legal departments (53%) had to face, for their company, one or more checks during the last 12 months from an administrative authority.. The DGCCRF intervened in nearly half (47%) of the companies, the AFA having checked 20%, the CNIL having intervened in 9% of them.

Interest in CSR has grown in the company since the COVID crisis: 58% of legal departments say they have observed greater interest from their employees in corporate social responsibility issues since COVID. The same is true for shareholders, according to 56% of them. And, for 54%, the consideration of the digital footprint of the organization has increased. This last subject covers data governance and protection, the carbon footprint, and the ethical rules concerning the use of artificial intelligence.

Ultimately, the challenge for lawyers is to protect the company from risks and to ensure compliance with the compliance and ethics framework. If we consider the role of lawyers in ETIs, the study highlights that they could federate internal audit, quality, risk management and even the security of information systems (RSSI), the majority operations being digitized, and data becoming a major asset and protection issue, to support a better CSR policy.

Arnaud Dumourier (@adumourier)


*120 legal directors were interviewed. They work for companies employing more than 10,000 people worldwide (41% of the sample), between 5,000 and 9,999 (9%), between 1,000 and 4,999 (21%), between 500 and 999 ( 11%) and less than 250 people (18%). Their activity generates more than 10 billion euros in turnover for nearly a quarter of them (22%), between 2 and 10 billion euros (26%), between 100 million and 2 billion euros. euros (27%), less than 100 million euros (25%).

43% of legal departments who responded work in listed companies and almost as many, 41%, in companies eligible for socially responsible investment (SRI) indices.

35% of respondents are members of the executive committee or its equivalent.

55% of the legal departments declare having more than one million euros of annual budget to cover their internal and external expenses.

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CSR issues are becoming increasingly important in legal departments

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