The award of the Label follows a rigorous evaluation process based on international standards such as ISO 260000 – the world reference standard on CSR. Among the elements highlighted by the assessors were the complete commitment to CSR running throughout Comdata France, from the highest levels of management to all staff in different regions.
First of all, could you tell us why Comdata decided to do the Engaged CSR Label assessment?
ID: Our commitment to CSR has long been embedded in Comdata France, and we wanted to mark our level of maturity in terms of our CSR policy, practices and results.
The Engaged CSR Label is an international, multi-sector reference framework based on the globally-recognized ISO 26000: 2010 standard and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. So, having this Label confirms the credibility and value of our CSR practices.
YL: The Label also provides a strong internal message for our staff in a region with around 12,000 staff, highlighting the passion we share for our business and giving us all a tool for further improvement.
What did the evaluation process involve?
YL: It was a rigorous assessment process, organized around five different areas of strategic, managerial and operational practices, and with economic, social and environmental performance indicators in each area.
The evaluation, by two independent assessors accredited by AFNOR, lasted a total of 17 days and included on-site evaluations in France, Morocco and Madagascar. They met staff at all levels, including Maxime Didier, CEO of Comdata Group, and also external stakeholders such as customers, suppliers and the local associations we support.
The level of detail and verification involved at every stage of the evaluation process gives the Label a high degree of credibility and makes it a ‘gold standard’.
Your Label assessment praised the total commitment across Comdata France, at all levels of management and in the different regions, to CSR. How is that achieved?
ID: We put a great deal of work into this, but, very briefly, it’s through a dual approach of global leadership and programs and site-based practices.
At a global level and to ensure leadership on the subject, we have a CSR Committee with senior staff from across General Management, Operations and HR in different regions. The Committee steers and drives our CSR policy, and recommends and sponsors large-scale actions.
Then we have six Country CSR ‘Relay’ committees that communicate decisions, practices, evaluation and reporting back and forth – making sure that our CSR approaches are anchored regionally and locally and that our commitments become reality. But it’s not just the responsibility of each Country CSR Relay team to carry out all the CSR actions; on the contrary, our approach works because managers and other staff take the lead on these issues.
One of the strengths running across Comdata is agility. Though we have global presence, we keep our center of gravity and decision-making as close as possible to our sites, and therefore to our customers, employees and territories. It’s the same with CSR. Many of our initiatives start in the field and, depending on their adaptability, become best practices that can be deployed in other entities.
Do you have examples of this in practice?
YL: Yes, of course. For example, in terms of the environment, we have global initiatives to monitor and reduce our carbon footprint, and then we have local activities. For example, our director in Madagascar has driven several CSR initiatives adapted to local challenges, including support for reforestation of the island to support biodiversity.
In terms of initiatives that start in the field and then become best practice … in France currently, our managers are being trained in a new coaching and performance improvement approach that was born in Morocco and has delivered very convincing results.
Then there’s the example of our partnership with TeamStarter, where each employee can present a project related to CSR (such as the creation of an eco-responsible cup) which is validated and sponsored based on the number of votes collected from other colleagues.
ID: And this year, we launched the #ComdataInspires initiative on social media, which is a good example of transversality. CSR and solidarity initiatives from each country are presented and the Comdata community votes for the one that most inspires them, thereby participating in the dissemination of good practices within Comdata and across society.
Comdata recently launched the Women@Comdata initiative – is that another example of your dual approach of global leadership and site-based practices?
ID: Yes. Diversity is part of our values and we see a real opportunity to improve the development of our business through the richness it brings to our teams, and also to represent the diversity of our clients.
We launched the global Women@Comdata initiative at the end of 2020, which aims to strengthen inclusion by supporting equity and diversity at all levels of the organization and in all our regions, starting from senior management. Diversity is reflected in all our HR processes, from recruitment to training to managing careers on the basis of merit to seeking a better balance between family life and professional life.
One aspect highlighted in the Label evaluation was Comdata France’s commitment to helping staff develop. Tell us about that.
YL: One of the strengths recognized by the Label was our practice on internal promotion: over 90% of our local managers have been appointed through internal promotion, and many of our local directors started their careers as consultants. In France, Comdata invests more than 5% of payroll in training.
One of Comdata’s challenges is to develop the employability of our employees. By employability, we mean not only the constant development of skills in our business areas through a significant investment in training, but also increasing human capital. To this end, we help our employees to acquire diplomas, professional titles and certificates that are recognized both within and outside our business sector. Over the past ten years, we have supported staff to acquire hundreds of professional qualifications and certificates.
Other aspects mentioned included your capacity for social innovation, and also your commitment to respect people. Can you illustrate that in practice?
YL: There are plenty of good examples, but I’ll give you just two.
Firstly, in Morocco and now in the Indian Ocean, in order to improve the quality of life at work, we’ve created the function of Happiness Manager. It’s an unconventional position that plays a role in animating our communities, organizing after-work sessions, humanitarian or environmental challenges, events or theme days related to health, nutrition, etc. It goes beyond the framework of the work environment to offer our employees responsible experiences to grow as a person; with a highly entertaining aspect that appeals to all generations.
The second example shows the type of specific measure we have in place to support work-life balance. We have a schedule exchange system that allows any employee to exchange their schedule with another person using a dedicated application, without the need for validation by the company.
I should add that, in all our actions and practices on CSR and not just these two examples, we measure their effectiveness and impact through steering indicators. We practice rational and pragmatic CSR, and we know our initiatives work.
How does all this create value for Comdata clients and their own customers?
ID: Our clients are at the heart of our CSR challenges, and are enshrined as such in our CSR policy: the obsession with excellence in our activities, innovation, and compliance. We are constantly seeking to innovate in our value proposition to support our clients’ business development, to provide the best experience for our clients’ customers.
The advantages for clients are multiple: quality, expertise, and the diversification of our offers, value proposition and development of our partners’ business, loyalty, etc. It is also the certainty of having a solid, expert partner whose ethics are reassuring.
YL: The proof is in the results. For the past ten years, the Opinion Way institute has conducted an annual satisfaction survey among our clients. This year again we have achieved an excellent satisfaction rate of 92% and a recommendation rate of 93%.
Finally, is it possible to summarize in one sentence what CSR means for Comdata France?
ID: Think global, act local, grow together.
This sums up our organization, the way CSR is anchored in the local, and the common spirit that drives each Comdata employee to respond to the challenges of CSR and sustainable development. The Engaged CSR Label recognizes that, but it certainly does not mean our CSR task is completed – on the contrary, it will drive us to innovate and improve further.