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Publié le
Mercredi 28 Juillet 2021
The digital transition is one of the great transformative forces of our time. The digital transition brings new hope, but also raises new questions. What are its environmental and social consequences? What are the consequences regarding the work organisation and professional relations? To answer these questions, the consequences of digitalisation, which is still too often perceived as immaterial, will be studied.
Responsabilité numérique des entreprises - Enjeux environnementaux et sociaux

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Many benefits were expected from digital technology at the time of its deployment (increased collaboration, innovation, easier communication, open data, etc.). However, its actual benefits (productivity, competitiveness, etc.) are not the same as those initially envisioned. Since the middle of the 19th century, the uses made of technical progress were considered as necessarily positive. However, the notions of sobriety and digital responsibility are challenging this idea. As awareness of the growing impact of digital technology increases, its evolution raises questions. The CSR Platform has therefore consecrated the notion of Corporate Digital Responsibility (CDR), which deals with issues related to data, the environment and social impacts.

Integrating social and environmental issues into CDR

Numerous reports published in recent years have highlighted the impacts of digital technology. Taking these warnings into account, the CSR Platform provides a definition of corporate digital responsibility that goes beyond data management to include environmental and social impacts. Thus, the CSR Platform defines CDR as a new and unavoidable extension of CSR, which is based on the same principles of trust, accountability, ethics and exchange with corporate stakeholders. A digitally responsible company should thus respond to several major challenges - in line with the Sustainable Development Goals:

  • Regulatory responsibility for data protection and compliance with the GDPR and sectoral regulations;
  • the ethical responsibility of artificial intelligence software;
  • societal responsibility in relation to data management, transformation of working patterns, data sharing, inclusion of all;
  • environmental responsibility for the use of data in considering the environmental impacts of business activities.

CDR includes the company's internal processes (research, production, marketing, etc.), the marketing of goods and services produced by the company, but also their use by third parties.

CDR also requires companies to commit to their environmental and social fundamentals. Companies who do enable the development of shared strategies and methods. These should, on the one hand, reduce the negative impacts of digital technology and, on the other hand, support the ecological transition. The environmental impacts of digital technology are present throughout the value chain of companies' products. Their use by the final consumer is also addressed by the CDR, as well as the waste they produce. Moreover, digital technology has changed the way companies work and has given them new responsibilities, particularly in the context of the health crisis and the expansion of teleworking. Digital technology is changing managerial relations, jobs and working conditions. It induces new risks and requires giving particular attention to collective dynamics and social dialogue practices. Digital platform models create new working conditions and raise issues in relation to the rights of independent workers. Furthermore, companies, together with the public authorities, have to fight against digital exclusion, both within its organisation and in society at large.

Digital technology can be perceived as a tool subject to systemic constraints but it must be integrated into the heart of corporate strategies and business models. It must be identified as a factor of both risk and opportunity. To reconcile these issues companies can make use of voluntary standards, benchmarks, self-diagnosis tools, charters and company networks. Companies and their business models must move towards sobriety, efficiency and competitiveness. Thus, productivity should not only be considered in terms of economic productivity but also in terms of use and consumption of materials and energy. A series of measures are proposed by the CSR Platform to make CDR a strong component of CSR, as the revisions of European texts open new perspectives. The European Commission has set six priorities between 2019 and 2024, including “ A Europe fit for the digital age". It also presented in 2020 two ad hoc draft regulations: the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which are to be adopted in 2022 in order to modernise the legal framework of digitalisation at EU level. Vigilance is expected both in the ongoing debates and in the transposition of the legislation.

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