Since 2009, the Grands Prix de la Transparence have rewarded the quality of information provided by SBF 120 companies, based on four pillars: accessibility, accuracy, comparability and availability.
Why transparency? Because, according to the Scientific Committee of the Grands Prix, it is “a factor in the sustainable development of a company”. Fable, didactic and less austere information would indeed improve the confidence of everyone in the company.
95,993 is the number of data collected in 2021 to evaluate the level of transparency of 141 companies under French law on 465 information media (universal registration document, meeting brochure, ethics charter, investor section of the website). The results show that SBF 120 companies had an average transparency score of 43% in 2021, compared to 39% one year earlier. Transparency is therefore gaining ground on all fronts!
In fact, ethical charters recorded an increase of +11 points in their transparency score in 2021 to 37.7%. Although their level of transparency remains lower than that of more mature documents, the efforts made by companies in this area are nonetheless worthy of note. For example, the Grand Prize for the 2021 Ethics Charter goes to Bureau Veritas, which scored 64.1% for transparency and updated its charter in 2020 by including practical examples and references to other ethics/compliance documents and procedures.
The next challenge for ethics and compliance teams? Strengthen the pedagogy and clarity of their documents to improve team understanding and adoption of the best reﬂexes and why not… dethrone universal registration documents on the altar of transparency!
Blandine Cordier-Palasse Founder of BCP Partners, a recruitment and governance consulting firm, and member of the Scientific Committee of the Grands Prix de la Transparence.
What does the word “transparency” mean to you? Why is it a key issue for companies?
The challenge of transparency is trust. It’s the fact that the company’s stakeholders – which are becoming more and more extensive – can have confidence in the relationships they have with the company, its managers and all its employees. Behind this notion of trust, there is the challenge of providing reliable and verifiable information. However, we must be careful not to confuse transparency, trust and business secrecy.
The notion of transparency is crucial, as it has evolved enormously over the last few years in connection with the growing commitment of governance bodies, the awareness of the importance of issues related to ethics and compliance, etc…
Moreover, 70 companies of the SBF 120 are interested in transparency.
What were the key findings or the strongest points of discussion this year within the Scientific Committee of the Grands Prix de la Transparence?
What particularly stood out for us was the considerable rise in the importance of non-financial information, which is moreover reﬂeted in the evaluation criteria for corporate information. The challenge is to be able to provide coherent, clear and most complete information possible in this area while weighting the complexity of the criteria. The development of the integrated report has played an important role in the need to develop transparency on this type of information. Investors themselves are increasingly attentive to this, and now evaluate companies more on the quality of non-financial information than on financial information, where all companies are finally on an equal footing in terms of information provided. Now, the challenge for companies is to identify the right criteria, depending on their level of maturity, the commitment of their managers and their exposure to increasingly varied and complex risks.
What good practices have you identified this year in terms of ethical charters that could inspire other companies?
More than 90% of SBF 120 companies now have ethics charters. Ten of them have been updated in the last two years and are becoming more educational, with examples of virtuous or sanctionable situations or behaviors, case studies to help make the right decision, and graphs and infographics. This is a good point that underlines the importance of ethics in the company’s overall information. Among the most significant developments, I note the practices in terms of whistleblowing. Thus, 65% of companies present their whistleblowing procedure in the ethics charter and nearly 30% specify that it is open to external employees. One area for improvement is the sanctions aspect, as barely 26% of charters include a section defining the sanctions for breaches. This is an important element in the reality and application of ethical commitments in companies. Finally, only 18% of groups present the governance of ethics in their charter. It is essential to develop this point, as it is a key element of more global governance. Ethics is increasingly positioned at the organizational level, which is excellent news. It should be encouraged.
What are the new boundaries for Ethics Charters?
The themes traditionally addressed in these documents are human rights, anti-corruption, data protection, the environment and the promotion of diversity and inclusion. A topic that is less often addressed, but which we believe is particularly important in the current context, is cybersecurity and compliance with economic sanctions programs.
I would like to conclude by pointing out that two words come up often in these documents: responsibility and courage. Indeed, these are two notions that are inseparable from ethics and compliance and therefore from transparency and trust. In fact, more than 40% of companies advocate zero tolerance on these issues.