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CSR at the heart of the VO group: Interview with Michel Culot, CEO

23 April 2021
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What are the reasons behind VO Group’s commitment to social responsibility?

Firstly, there are the reasons that we share with Patrick in terms of our convictions and thinking about how we want VO to be positioned within society in general. One aspect of this is to be aligned in our responses to the new questions that citizens are asking about environmental impacts. So, it's also a case of consciously moving with the times, and keeping up with changes in civil society.

We want to act in line with our values: congruence, transparency and respect for oneself and others. These values deserve to be present in the way we manage our business, and we expect the same of our team members.

 

Do you think that the Covid period has sped up the transition that was already under way?

Yes. We quickly realised that we needed to speed up our transition – which had already been going on for a few years when this health/economic crisis hit – and that we urgently needed to respond to new market demands by integrating our CSR beliefs and practices.

Events have gone digital, and co-construction now involves using collective intelligence techniques with clients and stakeholders to devise creative CSR solutions and recommendations. Our consulting and event management solutions now meet both digital needs and citizens’ new expectations, while still applying all the regulations regarding environmental protection and social responsibility.

We have also launched an in-house programme that revolves around three notions: CSR, ASR and ISR. This drive to contribute to sustainable development and integrate social responsibility into our management system applies at all levels of our business:

At group level (corporate social responsibility – CSR), by adopting measures that aim to improve the environmental performances of shared resources (energy, water, consumables, etc.) and by adopting the fairest possible social policy.

By each of the agencies (agency social responsibility – ASR) by constantly seeking out business solutions that help preserve natural resources and contribute to the social progress of their partners and stakeholders.

At an individual level (individual social responsibility – ISR), by encouraging team members in all of the group's companies (ASR) to put forward personal initiatives that improve overall well-being and to propose eco-friendly or socially responsible actions.

We have worked on all of these areas, in particular on ways that the events world can boost sustainability, respond to new regulations and meet the needs of the market.

 

Why is the concept of sustainability so important in the event communications sector?

Our sector is constantly developing, particularly at the moment, during the pandemic. It is critically important for us to keep up to date by constantly developing creative responses that give events a sustainable dimension. It is vital that we make our business part of the transition and give it a future. This even means staying one step ahead of local and European regulations.

The circular event toolkit is a good example. The idea is for events to become more circular through things like using recyclable and recycled materials, reusing materials, sourcing food locally, saving energy, and encouraging eco-friendly travel.

The challenge now is to account for the impact of moving physical events online, as the environmental impact of digital events is not insignificant. That is why we have worked with our partner CO2 Logic to propose new offsetting formulae based on precise analyses of the carbon footprint of digital events. This is a big step forward for event communications.

 

Beyond the sustainability of events, what steps have you taken in-house?

There is always more that we can do in-house. This year, VO has focused on raising the lowest salaries and has explored well-being within the company by carrying out surveys and making constant readjustments. This approach is crucial as the management is keen to apply CSR principles in its overall running of the company. This management style, which places people at the heart of the business, is an essential value for the group.

 

Why EMAS? Why now?

We're currently finishing off our 2019-2020 CSR Report. It will be the first of its kind for the group. It shows how well the group is integrating this notion of social responsibility, both for itself and for its clients.

To put our actions into perspective and reassert our strong positioning – the very thing that sets us apart from the market and the rest of our sector – we have launched EMAS, an eco-management system that will demonstrate how our actions relate to our beliefs and how our internal business practices benefit our clients and society as a whole.

 

What is CSR for VO?

Above all, it’s a credo. Social responsibility has always been present in our value system and in our management practices. These values are expressed in the company’s philosophy. We see CSR as a powerful vehicle to challenge ourselves, change, adapt, and ultimately sustain our business. We strive to reconcile the citizen with the company, our goal being to build ourselves and future generations a more resilient society. We are aware of the role we must play both as active members of VO and as citizens.

Our passion is to carry out social responsibility projects that take account of people and the environmental impact of the company’s activities, while ensuring VO’s economic prospects so that all of the group’s team members can look forward to a bright future.

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