“The social report must highlight the organizational causes of social problems in companies”

IProtests against the pension reform have highlighted the labor crisis that exists in France. To work for two more years seemed simply unbearable to many. This mobilization and this exasperation should encourage a reassessment of the devices supposed to improve working conditions, first and foremost the social balance sheet. This was established in 1977, in a period, after 1968, when the debate on work, hitherto centered on traditional workers’ demands (working time and sharing of value), widened to more qualitative development needs.

Following the recommendations of the Sudreau commission, in a pioneering approach at the time, large French companies were therefore obliged to submit a battery of social indicators to the wage authorities each year. Introduced in 2002, corporate social responsibility reports – transformed fifteen years later into non-financial performance declarations – were added, with, this time, a vocation to be made public.

But the difficult relationships of the French at work testify to this, this type of relationship does not seem to have led to significant improvements in life in the workplace. Managers – or their departments responsible for producing these mandatory documents – also regularly complain about the time wasted filling them out, sometimes to the detriment of concrete actions. Reporting in this way in the social report on the situation of employees, their health, their safety, their training… is it therefore useless?

Put the organization of work at the heart of the debate

Should we come to remove this “social accounting” ? On the contrary, we believe that these reports can play a lever role in improving working conditions, provided that they are completed. Accounting in its most general form makes certain issues visible and others invisible. However, concerning current social accounting, it is striking to note that only the situation of individuals is of interest. There is no indication of the organization of work.

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The balance sheet can thus show accidents at work, absences or a high turnover, for example, but without giving any key to understanding the reasons. Is it bad luck, independent of the organization? These disorders being multifactorial, the current social accounting does not make it possible to know if the operation of the company is in question.

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