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Candela and Maureen: Dreaming of a world in which CSR goes hand-in-hand with corporate culture

Candela, employed by Carrefour in Argentina, dreams of a world in which… she would have no work to do! Meaning, a world in which there would be no need for a CSR department because CSR considerations would be factored in by the teams themselves. Portrait of this labour law graduate who retrained in CSR to work on integration, training and food issues.

Maureen, a graduate of Paris Dauphine University, who also works on solidarity issues in Latin America. With a Master's degree in Sustainable Development and Responsibility of Organisations, Maureen now works for an NGO. Inspired by the work Candela has done in her capacity as head of sustainable development and solidarity at Carrefour Argentina, she is trying her luck at combining social utility and economic activity.

 

 

Candela, Head of sustainable development and solidarity

 

Candela left Buenos Aires University in 2008 with a degree in labour law. She then had a number of jobs in public and private sectors, before becoming interested in CSR issues. "I was inspired by the subject, but at the time it was little known in Argentina". So she started to take an interest in the issue – in South America as well as in Europe – through meetings, workshops and training programmes. She joined Carrefour Argentina's head office in 2007 as a lawyer, and then became head of sustainable development and solidarity in 2010.

 

Carrefour has been operating in Argentina for 35 years and has always implemented various solidarity initiatives. These initiatives were given a boost in 2002 with the creation of a local foundation – the Fundación Carrefour Argentina – which focuses its support on food and diversity issues. "We work with more than 40 associations across the country and do a great deal to get both our employees and our customers involved". This involvement can take several forms – such as getting customers to donate their small change at checkouts. Since 2007, more than 6 million pesos (€547,000) have been raised for UNICEF.

 

 

To put this involvement to good use, Candela works hard with teams from all over the company. Monitoring partnerships, establishing ties with project managers, implementing new initiatives… each day is extremely busy. "We are highly proactive in implementing our programmes". When a specific need is identified, the associations working at the forefront of the issue and the stores in the region are called upon to act, since "it is not possible to do business in communities that are failing".

 

So is Candela’s role to "repair" communities experiencing difficulties? “My aim is to do myself out of a job! I'm dreaming of the day when there will be no more CSR departments and when issues to do with solidarity and the environment will be managed by the teams themselves". Until that day comes, she likes to think of herself as someone who ensures Carrefour's continuing commitment. To do this, she gets the company involved at all levels – more than 4000 employees volunteer every year and the executive committee is particularly committed.

 

To achieve this level of involvement, her office days are spent out in the field. Meetings with partner associations and country's stores, field visits (to Buenos Aires’ underpriviledged towns or isolated villages), presentations to company executives… "It is vital to gain an understanding of what needs associations have in order to maximise our impact and take action in areas where we have the greatest added value". To do this, Candela is supported by her network of volunteers to pass up information and coordinate action at local level.

TESTIMONY
"My aim is to do myself out of a job! I'm dreaming of the day when there will be no more CSR departments and when issues to do with solidarity and the environment will be managed by the teams themselves."

And these ties between local and national initiatives are of key importance: this is how the Manos Abiertas (“Open hands”) project was born. The association, which trains people experiencing difficulties to become bakers, was initially lent equipment from a store for its training courses. It then started to sell products made by its trainees, and now it operates in 30 Carrefour stores!

In addition to providing solutions to food and integration challenges, the company also takes a stance in relation to society's issues. Some of these issues include domestic violence, the murder of women and gender violence, and it has set up a support network for female employees alongside various NGOs. "The Fundación Carrefour Argentina was a pioneer in securing the commitment of companies. We want to have the same role in relation to this issue and help drive social change".

 

Maureen, second year of a Master's degree in Sustainable Development and Responsibility of Organisations at the Paris Dauphine University

 

After a first degree in economics and management, Maureen realised that her future lay along a "more socially-orientated" path. So she began a course in social sciences, with the focus on managing sustainable development projects in developing countries. On completion of the second year of her master's degree, she wanted to continue learning about these issues. That's how she ended up enrolling on a Master's degree in Sustainable Development and Responsibility of Organisations at the Paris Dauphine University: "I wanted to have a better understanding of the role that companies play in protecting the environment, and so I chose this pathway. I firmly believe that each entity has to commit to working alongside other entities in order to create a better world for future generations".

 

It was this concern about the future that led Maureen to work for an NGO, helping people in poor towns in Latin America, and then in South Africa. She is absolutely certain that all stakeholders in society need to factor social utility into what they do and is particularly drawn to the challenge of managing to combine economic activity and social utility. "I identified with Candela when she said "My aim is to do myself out of a job!" – I would like to live in a world where everybody factors in and reconciles the economy, social considerations and the environment".

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