The rise of corporate climate regulation and education in France


The recent increase in corporate environmental legislation, with a focus on climate change, is leading companies worldwide to meet more environmental requirements than ever before while dealing with actors ranging from civil society to investors. Years ago, France became one of the leading countries in this field, through quantitative, educative, and legal initiatives. Some French initiatives later inspired European rules, and solutions made in France to support corporate decarbonization are now spreading around the world – including in Japan.

When did France accelerate?

Even if progress regarding sustainability is not recent in France nor in the rest of the world, 2015 marked an important milestone toward the implementation of new CSR rules in the country.

In this year, France hosted the 21st UN Climate Change Conference (COP21), that resulted in the historic adoption of the Paris Agreement, which further led its 194 parties to engage in limiting the global temperature increase well below 2 degrees by 2050. This historical milestone contributed to raise awareness in French companies, as well as inspire ideas for new solutions to support climate action.

Adoption of the Paris Agreement in France, December 2015. Photo credit: United Nations.

At a more domestic level, 2015 was also the year France made mandatory the disclosure of climate risks for asset managers and insurers, years before TCFD became a globally recognized framework for climate-related financial risks disclosure, and years before the European Union adopted its own Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation.

In this context marked both by a major international event – the adoption of the Paris Agreement – and a domestic push on corporate climate regulations, voluntary initiatives took off. Awareness of climate emergency rose within French firms, leading for example several of them to start moving away from coal. The French Agency for Ecological Transition, ADEME, launched with CDP the ACT initiative, a framework to guide companies into the design and assessment of their low-carbon transition plans. And ideas new solutions to educate about climate change, such as the Climate Fresk, started to emerge.

What is the impact of such laws on French companies?

Stronger regulations on climat-related disclosure enables all stakeholders to be better informed about the climate-related risks and impacts associated with the business of a given company.

This for instance allows NGOs to identify angles under which they can design their campaigns to push target companies to enhance their climate efforts. For example, French oil and gas giant TotalEnergies was sued two times by French NGOs and Ugandan environmental groups over the negative impact of an oil project conducted in Uganda and its lack of ambition regarding its commitment to the Paris Agreement with the latest case still pending.

Such court actions are frequent and made possible by the French Law system which allows its national companies to be sanctioned for their actions worldwide: that is why the city of New York could recently join climate litigation against the same TotalEnergies.

Within the companies, voices were also recently empowered: in 2021, a new law extended to environmental issues the competence of the French employee representation bodies, the “Social and Economic Committees”. From now on, the elected representatives of employees in French companies must be informed and consulted about the environmental consequences of the company’s actions or plans.

The growth of climate education tools for adults

Alongside the various French legal initiatives, public and private educative solutions designed to improve climate literacy within companies emerged in the years following the Paris Agreement.

The Climate Fresk, a science-based climate-change education workshop, was developed in 2018 by an NGO to make climate change science available to everyone and start a global movement of educated citizens and professionals. Since then, it has been used in more than 50 countries and by more than 800,000 participants.

2tonnes is another educative workshop, designed to explore the individual and collective levers of the transition to a low-carbon society, through a game based on cards and real-time simulation of greenhouse gases emission levels. Launched in 2021, it is now extending its reach outside of France, with an international version available in English.

Developed by science-based consulting agency Carbone4, MyCO2 is a workshop gaining international interest. The focus of MyCO2 is on individual carbon footprints and discussions about how to change individual behaviors to contribute to the collective effort against climate change.

AXA Climate, a subsidiary of insurance company AXA, also launched in 2021 its own climate education service, the Climate School. This e-learning solution offers employees to learn about climate change via a set of more than 150 micro-learning video chapters. The Climate School was specifically designed to help major companies train their thousands of employees. It already has client companies in France, Germany, the UK, India and other regions.

Recognizing the importance of climate education for professionals, France announced at the end of 2021 the largest climate training program ever decided by a government: all 5.6 millions of French state civil servants, representing nearly 20% of the active population in France, will receive a basic training including Climate Fresk and 2tonnes workshops.

Codo Advisory is bringing to Japan the best solutions available worldwide to support corporate decarbonization, and is working actively with French partners. Codo was in spring 2022 the first Japanese consultancy certified to offer ACT assessments based on the methodology co-developed by French environmental agency ADEME. In November 2022, Codo also became the first private agency in Japan to be allowed to organize Climate Fresk workshops for a professional audience. Going forward, Codo will keep expanding its catalogue of services and has established contacts with 2tonnes, MyCO2 and AXA Climate School. To know more about how it could be implemented in your company in Japan, feel free to contact us.

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