Organization, Climate and Sustainable Development

5.1. Organizations and time horizons: Beck’s theory

5.1.1. Organization and globalization

Globalization can be understood as a program for the transformation of cultures and political institutions in the world. This program was formulated in the 1980s, based on new opportunities that could be seized by firms that had become global. The major risk at the forefront at the time was the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. This led in its wake to the collapse of the Cold War system, due to the disappearance of rivalry with the communist bloc at the fall of the Berlin Wall. While “organization” is defined as all the intermediaries between public agencies and individuals, it did not play a major role in a permanent state of tension, that of the Cold War, which could lead in an instant to the mutual destruction of the great powers’ territories by nuclear fire.

While the time scales of the Cold War era were controlled by the possibility of the nuclear apocalypse, globalization programs have been formulated in a spatial and timeless way. The intellectual scene is that of the discussion about the end of history announced by Francis Fukuyama, that of a definitive victory of democracy. Fukuyama took up a concept by the philosopher Hegel. This suspension of historic time, a very Hegelian notion, is found in the formulations of globalization programs, the most exhaustive being that of Kenichi Ohmae [OHM 85; OHM 96]. Ohmae proposes a redefinition of political cultures at the intermediate level, that of organizations. A game of seduction between local authorities and firms, attractiveness, replaces the traditional relations of industrial policies, tight knots between a few large industrial firms and national political authorities. The risk, for Kenichi Ohmae, a former nuclear industry engineer now interested in organizational strategy, is now only in the positive form of business opportunity. One of the points of Kenichi Ohmae’s programmatic formulation of globalization is the desired disappearance of spatial solidarity: the world’s political and economic space would become that of the great dynamic metropolises, freed from the obstacles to their expansion, in particular, the contribution he considers excessive that these dynamic territories make to a hinterland that creates little added value. The reference policy framework would become the region, the size of the German Länder or Singapore [OHM 96].

In relation to these political cultures shaped either by the Cold War or by globalization, climate change, which we became aware of in the late 1980s, has unprecedented characteristics. This is not a balance of terror as in the case of the Cold War. Yet the potential losses are considerable, resulting from a muted rise in GHGs and relatively slow mechanisms on a human scale. The climatic casino introduces surprises, events and therefore history, while purely technological solutions did not seem relevant for a long time [NOR 19]. Climate change plays a universal role and requires the mobilization of all levels (whereas political cultures specifically favor either the State or the organization): owner states, firms and local authorities, even household behavior. However, new concepts are emerging, such as sustainable development, which appeared with the Brundtland report, which became the watchword for the United Nations program for the period 2015–2030. A first assessment of this renewal of political cultures due to climate change was carried out by sociologist Ulrich Beck (1944–2015) [BEC 13].

5.1.2. Beck’s theory

Beck defines climate risk as the anticipation of future climate disasters and risks in the present. The fight against climate change is that of cosmopolitan risk communities, whose pioneering role is compared to that of the Creole elites. Beck emphasized the intermediate situation of these European settler populations, which themselves worked through acculturation and were vectors of the political idea of national communities. These Creole elites, were, for example, expressed through the creation of the United States in 1776. These elites conceptualized national communities, while they themselves were experiencing double acculturation, between Aboriginal populations and newcomers on the one hand, and the metropolis of the colonial empire on the other. The opposition is between two schemes for a diversity of culture, either the vertical scheme of the Creole elites or the horizontal scheme of cosmopolitan climate change communities.

According to Beck, risk is an anticipation of a disaster. Like Comte, Beck proposes a two-step secularization of societies. In Comte’s case, there was an intermediate “metaphysical” step before the positivist age. For Beck, this intermediate stage is the transition to an industrial society. The latter is only a “semi-democracy” with ideals of progress that contravene the fundamental rules of that same democracy. In the “Global Risk Society, the directions taken by the developments and results of technological change become the subject of debate, and are called upon to be legitimized” ([BEC 08], p. 405). More frequent technological shocks mean that “the modelling potential of society has left the political system to take its place on the side of the sub-political system of scientific-technical-economic modernization”. An example of this “sub-policy” can be given in the fight against air pollution in large cities: the extension of the road network depends on a technical service, even though the political consensus around the fight against air pollution is real. Urban planning like that of Los Angeles with its multiple highways results only from a group of engineers. For many, like Fukuyama, it would take a return of politics to put an end to this disorder resulting from science. But the elected officials, even in Los Angeles, did not remain inactive; they simply could only act in a limited way, for example using regulation that promoted Zero Emission vehicles. Beck advances a process of political transformation that is largely undetermined, as well as involving an extra-parliamentary policy. Politically relevant decisions are taken through multiple channels, for example by companies or non-parliamentary groups that bypass all procedures under parliamentary control. The central forums of sub-politics are the media and the courts, not parliamentary assemblies. Sub-politics refers directly to fundamental rights and thus plays a role in limiting the political powers instituted through elections. There is no separation of powers, or more generally, there is a search for a balance of powers. A characteristic of sub-politics is therefore its incomplete constitutionalism. In particular, the recognition of fundamental rights does not necessarily go hand-in-hand with a proper balance of power in the family, organizational and scientific spheres. In La société du risque [BEC 08], Beck insists on restricting the place of parliamentary democracy procedures through underlying networks that are the real political operators, in the sense that they implement the important transformations that affect everyone’s lives. Sub-political terminology can also include dangerous situations, such as technocratic decision-making circuits, or decisions of criminal organizations. The rise of sub-politics can generate new political risks. In institutionalist trends, political risks induced by parliamentary activity are taken into account in a privileged way. Parliamentary provisions favoring subprimes provide an example of these parliamentary political risks. For Hayek, it is important to promote the Law of Judges to avoid this type of parliamentary risk. For Beck, political risks can also be of extra-parliamentary origin, which is undeniable.

Beck’s main theory is that modernity has a capacity to transform itself. Unlike Weber and Fukuyama, for Beck, the industrial society is not a final state of modernization. A secularization of societies is continuing, a process of civilization is underway through globalization. The sociology of the early 20th Century insisted on the inexorable rationalization of society: Beck’s theory by no means insists on the transitory nature of the increasingly Taylorized and controlled society described by Weber, that of the first modernization and industrialization as it was known in Germany at the time. Today, the Global Risk Society is emerging with the public exposure of endogenous evils that have resisted control, particularly climate risk.

Beck offers a game of balancing powers and counter-powers. The aim is to establish legal guarantees of certain possibilities of sub-policy influence. Courts, counter-expertise, the media: the combinations of powers must make it possible to develop a reflective democracy, particularly for technological and natural risks. A counter-power is required for technical expertise. For research, upstream risk management must be promoted and disciplinary segregation must be combated.

As institutionalism underlines the risks arising from a parliamentary procedure, it would be paradoxical in this analytical framework to amplify the role of parliaments. But playing with the expansion of sub-politics undoubtedly presents even greater risks than those resulting from parliamentary indiscipline. Beck offers more of an approach than normative institutional solutions. Humanity forms a cosmopolitan community that shares the same global risks; however, the trajectories of cosmopolitization are different and must take into account national attachments, mediators between the individual and the global.

The issue of climate change illustrates well the difficulties in defining this new risk policy that Beck mentioned as early as 1986. However, Beck’s theoretical predictions have proved to be relevant: there has been an increase in insecurity among all individuals, which is one of the characteristics of a global risk society. The answers provided in a first modernization formulation, as may have been the case in the United States after September 11, have proved inadequate. There is still a need to better define the forms of political society with parliamentary and extra-parliamentary components that are appropriate for a global risk society, which Beck has been working on for the climate change issue.

Beck points out that the world is being transformed by the emergence of a “consciousness of multiple belonging” ([BEC 06], p.142). “Cosmopolitanism” is the learned term given to a political reflection that encompasses the whole of humanity. German thought introduced cosmopolitanism with Kant and teleological reasoning: since the final state of humanity is peace, all educators must now teach this peace. In the 19th Century, cosmopolitanism could thus appear as an ideal horizon, whereas today, what is real is an otherness that is always close. Daily life is now one of “obvious cosmopolitanism, so that it increasingly contradicts the categories of understanding of reality that obey national norms” ([BEC 06], p. 146). Even forms of resistance to globalization are expressed in “political globalization” and therefore participate in the same dynamic.

Beck defines the present period as a new process of civilization that operates at the level of the individual and of each state. Norbert Elias had introduced this notion of the process of civilization that gradually reduces social violence and studied it in a comparison of small European Renaissance states. Beck distinguishes globalization as a process of civilization from the political discourse of multiculturalism. Beck points out weaknesses in the theory of multiculturalism. This theory is not aware of the dynamics of civilization and is limited to groups within a single country. Beck sees globalization more broadly as the end of closed societies and exclusive affiliations for individuals. Cosmopolitization is intended “to be internalized at the state level” ([BEC 06], p. 344). All countries must cooperate to care for individuals, all with multiple affiliations.

Beck develops a vision of the “emancipatory catastrophe”, producing social norm and public good. In the early days of sociology in the 19th Century, Comte assumed that every human agglomeration brought about sociability. As for the political socialisms that appeared at the same time, a social revolution needed to arrive in the near future to bring the regulations of an era of peace and justice. Today, an environmental crisis arises, for example, from an episode of urban smog: as with Comte, this means that the agglomeration brings something positive, the fact that urban concentration makes it possible to create an environmental awareness. Revolutionary socialisms, on the other hand, place the positive catastrophe within a voluntary advent. But the creation of new regulations actually comes from the initial emancipatory catastrophe, according to Beck. Climate risk has generated cosmopolitan communities of actors [BEC 13]. Beck’s point is also methodological: to form policies appropriate to global problems such as climate change, he contrasts “methodological cosmopolitanism” with the “methodological nationalism” of sociologists. The nationalism of communities is established in the era of European migration to the New World by a Creole imagination, where colonial residents find themselves caught between a metropolis that decides: new arrivals or new competitors and indigenous populations. The “methodological nationalism” of most sociologists can only introduce overly partial views on an issue such as climate change. Sociological methods must therefore be adapted to the present situation, which amounts to adopting a methodological cosmopolitanism. In Beck’s sociology, globalization (or “cosmopolitan realism”) is a fact: every place has several affiliations, and there is no longer a distant East, but everyone has a Japanese or Lebanese restaurant as a neighbor. The climatic risk gives a global impact to small daily actions.

According to Beck, contemporary political cultures oscillate between utopia (a tradition in line with Hegel’s idealistic philosophy) and apocalypse (generally invoked to demand a state of emergency, regulation with an iron fist). In practice, apocalyptics (e.g. terrorist groups) play a role in intensifying local conflicts and pushing for a policy of tension and exceptional legislation. Territories that now have the capacity to reproduce global conflicts on a small scale are driven by these large-scale policies.

The positive culture of climate change, the culture of “emancipatory disaster” according to Beck, has the following characteristics:

1. it demands limited knowledge;

2. it is placed in an intermediate temporality between utopian cultures, generally technical, which are timeless or in very long time scales, and cultures of political urgency, with time scales so short that there is not even a day after tomorrow. This intermediate temporality concerns that which is short intergenerational (the timescale of our children and grandchildren).

Beck provides several examples of actors in the positive culture of climate change:

  • – sustainable city clubs, territorial planning; for example, ICLEI, an association of 1200 major cities around the world. ICLEI is quite elitist – New York, Paris, etc., the big cities are among them;
  • – consortia of innovation networks, entrepreneurs in new “green” sectors and low-carbon strategies;
  • – environmental associations that play the role of green consumerism.

These three types of organizations are what Beck calls the “cosmopolitan communities of climate risk” [BEC 13].

5.2. Corporate social responsibility (CSR)

5.2.1. Soft law as a standardization of voluntary commitments

Among the “cosmopolitan communities of climate risk” are sustainable city clubs and networks implementing low-carbon strategies. These communities rely on the practice of major standard bodies such as ISO, the Geneva-based International Standard Organization. The best known of these standards, apart from those specific to sustainable development and climate change, is ISO 9001, the standard for quality management. A few main principles govern these approaches to the standardization of voluntary commitments:

1) the principle of a consensual and universal procedure for setting standards. Universality based on a global procedure based, in turn, on review cycles and consultations as draft documents are developed and move closer to a formulation that can obtain the agreement of the entire global community of practitioners, themselves organized within national bodies, such as AFNOR in the case of France. The CSR standard is the main organization-wide application of sustainable development, adopted in 2010, i.e. before sustainable development itself was put on the agenda for the United Nations for the period 2015–2030;

2) the principle of continuous improvement, or kaizen, which translates into an internal working method within the organization, based on an inventory (e.g. carbon emissions in the case of low-carbon strategies), establishing an agenda giving precedence to priorities and a timetable for implementation, leading to corrective and improving actions according to the Deming wheel scheme (PDCA: Plan/Do/Check/Adjust);

3) the principle of action based on a proven factual basis. This objectification remains focused on the main risks of the organization and its environment, making it possible to achieve governance based at least, in part, on objective elements. There are formulations of governance based entirely on proven facts, where any act of management must come from best practices validated by scientific studies, but this is only one current in management theories. ISO-type standardization procedures have only a partial application of this evidence-based practice approach. This partial implementation is based on auditing procedures, providing external validation of diligent internal management and continuously providing objective data for evaluation;

4) the principle of otherness, in other words, the fact of being different, goes hand in hand with diversity. In terms of the requirement for normalization, the relationship between otherness and diversity questions the external viewpoint. The key people, such as auditors and their external perspective, must be limited by personal ethics that ensures the security of the strategic data of the organization to which they have access. This provision has been reinforced during changes to quality standardization from cases of data disclosure collected during an external evaluation, for commercial or malicious purposes.

These four principles also indicate the limitations of CSR, the dynamics or conflicts that can arise between hard and soft law.

The procedures for intergovernmental negotiation are particularly slow and can only lead to a lower common denominator, i.e. a bottom-up alignment of practices. ISO-type standardizations are based on a pragmatic agreement on good practices, revised in a continuous improvement approach. The “political” geography of these voluntary approaches indicates a leading role for Asia and Europe, Africa, which has few organizations, and other regions of the world with organizations that make little use of this type of voluntary engagement. The Paris Agreements are binding at the state level, but the political geography based on state commitments and the results of the 2015–2019 period looks like déjà vu. This is the map of zeal for quality. The countries whose organizations are most involved in quality approaches are generally among the most active in the fight against climate change, and so are the other lower levels of engagement.

The principle of continuous improvement implicitly introduces a social evaluation based on the organization’s commitment. The current state of the organization may be far from the objectives of sustainable development, for example, for an industry that is focused on gases with a very high greenhouse effect coefficient, the voluntary procedure only indicates the organization’s effective commitment to remedy this state of affairs. However, this situation brought about a hard law with a low emission time scale for very high greenhouse gases (GHGs) by 2047. Time management is not that of a decision with instantaneous effect, or with a very short time scale that can be enhanced in the context of an electoral process with terms of office that only correspond approximately to scheduled intervals between two “large” audits.

Due to the third principle, the practice based on proven facts appears with certain limitations. Any objectification method contains an element of uncertainty and this cannot be taken as a reason for inaction, i.e. the precautionary principle, which is unevenly adopted in different parts of the world. The responsibility content for social responsibility law will undoubtedly be specified by the courts, but it is not terminology that has acquired a legal type of content providing guarantees based on publicly made commitments. Thus, a question is raised by inter-organizational relations, for example between a company that has made commitments in terms of the environment and a law firm that is free of any social responsibility and commissioned solely to defend the material interest of its client, the company with social responsibility.

The notion of transparency is explicit in the statement of organizations’ CSR in ISO 26000. Consumer communication practices for environmental issues are often misleading: because the organization has not made an effort in the area concerned, it will, in a defensive manner, take aggressive advertising action. The intensity of this greenwashing is known to experts, in a documented way for each organization. The situation is therefore one of a gap that remains between an ethics of the Superwise, that of the lead auditor bound to confidentiality and benevolence outside the proven case of criminal conduct, and an elaborate system of transparency, still in the drafting stage. This system is necessary for the development of green finance, as the call for investors can only be made on the basis of a guarantee of transparency.

In his analysis, Jean Tirole outlines three challenges to social responsibility: the reliability of information, the weighting of objectives (economic, social and environmental) by stakeholder governance, and agreement on what is socially irresponsible, and the synchronization of hard law and soft law ([TIR 16], pp. 256–258). For the first question, that of the reliability of information, the usual tools such as quality approaches and financial transparency are well mastered, so the question that arises is limited to their more systematic deployment. The implementation of green finance is a positive vector for this deployment. The answer to the third challenge, agreeing on what is socially irresponsible, would help to frame the very complex issue raised in the second challenge, that of the weighting between the different dimensions of sustainable development (economic, social and environmental), and its institutional counterpart, that of governance by stakeholders. Thus, the moral philosophy questions that arise are the following (based on the examples given by Jean Tirole on the question of weighting objectives ([TIR 16], p. 257)): to what extent is it socially irresponsible to close a high GHG emitting production site that provides employment to a local community? To what extent can we accept that a multinational company engages in environmentally responsible actions while pursuing a policy of advanced tax optimization? Does the liability of a multinational company stop at compensating for damage to the local environment by financing a school, clinic and waste treatment facility in the community? These questions involve the answers to three Tirole challenges. They mobilize a renewed right of responsibility, a theory of stakeholder governance and guarantees of access to complete and reliable information.

5.2.2. Voluntary engagement standards and “cosmopolitan climate risk communities”

Three families of voluntary commitment standards exist or are currently being developed: those of social responsibility (ISO 26000 for CSR and ISO 37001 for sustainable cities), those of low-carbon inventories and strategies (ISO 14064 and EMAS standards on environmental audits) and those of green finance (ISO 14030 standards currently being defined). These standards follow older initiatives focused on the collection of good practices and the declaration of intent on sustainable development.

– The first of these initiatives was the support of major firms at the Rio Summit in 1992 through the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. This group, which combines “large chimneys” and companies known for their environmental commitment, has an approach focused on the opportunities offered by environmental protection and a sustainable development content that emphasizes technological innovation, energy efficiency and market access. A declination of the notion of risk as a mere opportunity is doctrinally expressed in the texts promoting globalization, such as those of Kenichi Ohmae [OHM 85], and corresponds well to the aspirations of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

The Global Reporting Initiative was launched in 1997 by the United Nations Environment Program with the objective of providing guidelines and indicators for periodic corporate reporting on sustainable development [FIG 18]. The GRI committee has promoted a managerial approach, around issues of accounting for positive actions of organizations in environmental matters. Cosmopolitan communities, those of experts and global firms, are the first to form and enter the international scene.

The 1999 Global Compact was an initiative of Koffi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, which is aimed at businesses in the form of a pact for sustainable development. Its political impact is strong, but it does not contain practical provisions on the implementation of sustainable development ([FIG 18], p. 163). Voluntary commitment standards developed in the 1990s. However, a multiplication of standards complicates the task of practitioners within organizations and alters the transparency of the actions carried out.

The formulation of the ISO standard on social responsibility in 2010 unified different trends into a single formulation. The main trends are those of the quality approach, the ethics of faith-based business that has spread in the United States and the operational application of sustainable development, in its three dimensions, economic, social and environmental. Social responsibility is defined in ISO 26000 as:

“an organization’s responsibility for the impacts of its decisions and activities on society and the environment through transparent and ethical behavior that contributes to sustainable development, health and well-being of society; takes into account stakeholders’ expectations; complies with applicable laws and is in accordance with international standards of behavior; is integrated throughout the organization and implemented in its relationships.”

Clause 4 of ISO 26000 sets out seven principles of social responsibility: accountability, transparency and disclosure, ethical behavior, stakeholder engagement, rule of law, international norms of behavior and human rights. Article 5 sets out the two fundamental practices of CSR, the identification of CSR and the establishment of dialogue with relevant stakeholders. Clause 6 sets out a list of central issues of social responsibility towards consumers (the basis of the quality approach): societal commitment, business practices, the environment, working relations and conditions and human rights. Clause 7 concerns the integration of social responsibility throughout the organization.

Social responsibility speaks little of the link it establishes with sustainable development and its concerns for intergenerational justice, as well as with a definition of risk as anticipating a disaster. The state of “cosmopolitan community” is a reality that has been established with globalization, and it was affirmed at the Rio Summit, while the “risk as disaster anticipation” dimension is still scarce. The emergence of this takes place with the debates surrounding the statement of the precautionary principle, since the anticipation of the disaster is then the definition of the risk that is specific to it. This concern for managing major risks was reinforced by the attacks of September 11, 2001, and then by the implementation of systemic risk management after the 2008 subprime crisis. Compared to Beck’s proposed paradigm of a “cosmopolitan community of climate risk”, the social responsibility standard rather calls for the construction of a shared culture, within a perimeter, that of the parties concerned by the issues, to be defined when establishing this organizational culture.

Two types of political cultures are at odds in the fight against climate change. The three successive steps backward by the United States under the presidencies of George Bush Sr. at the Rio Summit, then George W. Bush in 2001 with the withdrawal of the Kyoto agreements, then Donald Trump’s step backwards from the Paris Agreements, were made for different reasons. In Rio, the way of life of the citizens of the United States was not negotiable; in 2001, it was a matter of doing nothing because of the scientific uncertainties that remained in opposition to the precautionary principle put forward by the Europeans; and finally Trump’s pro-carbon policy was part of a protectionist policy and a partisan logic.

The United States’ sovereign policy rests on an old political culture formulated in the 18th Century from a Creole population with a double fear, that of the local populations and that of the metropolis of the colonial empire. The fight against climate change also brings a renewal of political cultures. This renewal involves a role at the intermediate level of organizations, a level with the operational capacity that is lacking at the higher level of national or global public agencies.

5.2.3. Diversity and governance in climate change

The theme of diversity is also reflected in the history of the fight against climate change, as, for example, in the 1999 Global Compact. The emergence of a political culture specific to the fight against climate change took place alongside an older political culture, that of a Creole culture feeling threatened both by a federal power and by indigenous populations. An equivalence between the themes of diversity and climate is established in the ancient theories of climate, those of Aristotle and Montesquieu. It is found here, which leads us to question again the explanations of this solidarity between the notions of diversity and climate adaptation. A grid of the four complementary visions of positive diversity (contingency, truth, “balance of powers” and operational capacity) was presented in the previous chapter (see Table 4.1), and can be found in the different approaches to combating climate change.

The oldest veins of literature on diversity and climate change, those of the 1990s, are parts of analyses such as those of contingency and operational capacity (see Table 4.1): the cumbersomeness and slowness of intergovernmental procedures requires creative and pragmatic approaches by non-governmental organizations or technical commissions within intergovernmental structures such as the IPCC, created in 1988. The emergence of the trend towards CSR in organizations is leading to a different way of looking at diversity. Profit is no longer the only thing that legitimizes a company in society, but also the way in which it treats its employees and the environment that is taken into account, since the company has a responsibility towards society [CAR 98]. From this perspective, diversity becomes an ethical principle enshrined in CSR.

The stories of diversity or the fight against global warming include the same phases: a first phase (covered by the contingency and operational capacity dimensions) is that of charters, without the concern for a balance of power on which ISO 26000 of 2010 focuses. An intermediate step is that of labels, the first standards to appear. For example, in France, the discourse on diversity gives rise to a series of managerial standards to encourage companies to fight discrimination and turn to diversity, combining all types of arguments. We can use the two main mechanisms for encouraging diversity as an example. The Diversity Charter condemns “discrimination”, values “skills” and “performance”1. The approach is therefore in the operational capacity component and dates from 2004. The Diversity Label underlines a “voluntary commitment to promote diversity” and is intended to be a bridge to social responsibility. It dates from 2008 in an AFNOR certification. This stepping stone leads to an organization with social responsibility; it is more a question of a particular consideration in the treatment of individuals and a governance dimension appears.

Social responsibility can be applied to the sustainable city (ISO 37000 standard), the firm (CSR) and any other organization. For several years, CSR has taken a special place in the business world under the impetus of management systems that are gradually leading companies to communicate their societal commitments in annual reports [DEB 08][TER 09]. Most of these mechanisms are certifications, a set of rules and procedures for targeting actions. The strength of these certifications lies, in part, in their flexibility because they are renewable over time according to needs [PAT 06].

In France, there are a range of mechanisms, some of which focus specifically on CSR and include diversity concerns in the social dimension. One provision appears in 2001 in the New Economic Regulation (NER) Act, which stipulates in article 116 that listed companies must submit social characteristics in their annual reports. The environmental component of article 116 of the NER requires the assessment of the impact of the listed company’s activity. The 2010 “Grenelle 2” law extends this need for annual information on the social and environmental consequences of activities to a range of organizations, based on a size criterion (local authorities with more than 50,000 inhabitants, firms with more than 500 employees, public services). Below this size limit, the approaches are entirely based on voluntary commitment.

These regulatory requirements raise the question of the reliability of advanced information. In 1997, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)2 was founded to provide a technical framework for writing annual reports on sustainable development. The GRI guidelines have taken into account the evolution of standards and have been harmonized with the social responsibility of ISO 26000. The guidelines aim to “promote [...] societal and governance responsibility” through a series of indicators including that of “diversity and equal opportunities”. On the other hand, there are management certifications specific to diversity that fall within the general framework of CSR. This is the case with the Diversity Label, which is useful for improving human resources management [ALA 18].

In relation to the grid of positive diversities (see below and Table 4.1), only the otherness–truth link has not yet been mentioned in this chronological summary. It is part of the audit procedures, for example EMAS. These audit procedures are necessary, in particular for the development of green finance. Within a “socio-legal” framework [VAT 13], CSR systems follow a logic of continuous progress through managerial practices subject to external evaluation procedures by the auditors. They thus play an educational role thanks to support adapted to the needs of companies. The continuous review of their practices contributes to learning about CSR at the diversity management level and, ultimately, to organizational change as an incentive.

The chronology of the demands of the different organizational theories of diversity or the fight against climate change was organized, in summary, as follows:

1. first, contingently, with a certain proximity to the globalization strategy, around the seizure of opportunity;

2. then, around competence and operational capacities, a central feature of organizations;

3. the social responsibility approach was a contribution to the theories of governance and balance of power;

4. finally, green finance and the fight against greenwashing provide audit practices, based on the link between otherness and truth.

The question of sustainable development raises the question of limiting the powers of the present generation vis-à-vis future generations. CSR is based on stakeholder governance, which is an improvement over governance theories that focus solely on shareholder control of managers. Organizations generally have a relatively short lifespan and can take advantage of this short lifespan through opportunistic behavior. Along with social responsibility, however, the emergence of organizational ethics, in other words, the ethical norms to which the organization refers to, is an important contribution to the implementation of sustainable development, due to the complexity of governance issues arising from the inability to represent future generations.

5.3. Organization and decentralization in the energy transition: the example of Senegal

Organizations play a role in all contexts. A case study of renewable energy access programs in Senegal provided an opportunity to introduce a global political economy of the aftermath of the Paris Agreements, explicitly indicating how it is that the energy transition is the one that is marking time in this period. Senegal has just been cited as an example of dynamism in terms of its innovative approach. The ambivalence of this global diagnosis is illustrated here by the case study proposed.

5.3.1. Africa, the green continent in the quest for sustainability

“It is not absurd to think that Africa represents the model for the future of humanity, because its energy system is constrained by necessity, people are accustomed to using renewable energies (biomass) produced locally”. They also export fossil fuels, of which the African continent “consumes only a small fraction of what it produces” ([MAF 16], p. 49).

Wood samples will remain the main source of energy in Africa until 2050 according to projections by the International Energy Agency (IEA). Africa is now the only green continent: the average energy mix is 63% renewable. The questions that arise are then those of sustainability, the comparative performance of the different renewable energy mixes and the possible scenarios of reversion to old and abandoned energies, such as fossil coal.


Figure 5.1. Biomass energy chains. For a color version of this figure, see www.iste.co.uk/alaktif/climate.zip

All biomass sectors now account for about two-thirds of the world’s renewable energy production, and therefore they are a major component of the renewable energy mix. Direct combustion is very ancient, introduced about 400,000 years ago according to archaeologists [LUM 17]. Its use as a caloric became widespread in the Upper Paleolithic. Firewood has a high calorific value, but has poor cooking properties. In addition, it emits toxic and pathogenic emissions in insufficiently ventilated areas.

Alcoholic fermentation was introduced in the Neolithic period. Many other processes have since been invented. They are used on a large scale in Latin America, while Africa remains attached to combustion processes. However, the development of energy crops exists in Africa on a limited scale, as, for example, in Senegal with sugar cane that generates rum.

Biogas is based on another principle, that of the action of bacteria in a closed environment deprived of oxygen. The principle is that of anaerobic digestion, which causes living organisms to emit methane. “Developed to treat pollution, anaerobic digestion has gradually been associated with the energy recovery of the gas produced. The first digester was built in a leprosy house in Matunga, India, in 1897, with the aim of obtaining a biofuel. It was finally the cogeneration of electricity and heat that was installed on the site in 1907” [ACA 16]. Anaerobic digestion has been mainly implemented for wastewater treatment plants in Europe, while “on-farm” micro-methanization applications have developed in several waves in China. The business models are different in the two historical developments of the sector. The manager of a large waste center tries to remunerate himself/herself on both sides: on the side of the removal and treatment of the waste, then on the side of the commercial resale of the by-products obtained, namely, biogas and digestate which can be sold as fertilizer, or silage to create compost that is then sold. On-farm applications provide additional cash income to the farmer through the sale of fertilizer, currently sold at approximately €4.5 (CFAF 3,000) per 50 kg bag in Senegal, and allow for the self-consumption of energy produced in domestic, agricultural and artisanal activities. Small “on-farm” units can include biolatrines, streetlights and modern kitchens replacing those powered by firewood. The purchase of bottled gas is very expensive in the case of contemporary Senegal for rural households, while the cost price per m3 of biogas for domestic production does not exceed 150 CFAF (about 20 cents in terms of euro). The largest biogas units in Europe cover the city’s energy needs up to 50,000 inhabitants. Micro-methanization implies that minimum quantities of plant and animal waste can be brought in every day, a condition that can be met by a small livestock, or a collective kitchen, or an activity such as that of a slaughterhouse. Biogas cogeneration units and photovoltaic cells are used to supply microgrids in artisanal areas. The relative gains of these renewable energy microarrays compared to that of a non-renewable energy cogeneration standard have been estimated at a 12% lower cost, a 20% higher power, and a 40% lower carbon allowance [ZHA 19].

One of the criteria implemented in Senegal for “on-farm” or microgrid units is that of a distance greater than 2 kilometers from the low-voltage electricity grid. The IEA forecasts that by 2030, 90% of the people in the world who will not be connected to an electricity grid will be Africans. The latest IEA report indicates the following trends towards Goal 7 of the 2015–2030 SDGs (universal access to electricity, reduction in the share of traditional firewood cooking, progress in the share of renewable energy and energy efficiency): a decline in investment in renewable energy, a slowdown in energy efficiency gains in 2017 and 2018, and stagnation in reducing firewood cooking practices. While universal access to electricity is on track worldwide (89% of people have access to the electricity grid worldwide), with the exception of sub-Saharan Africa, the most worrying situation is in the area of renewable energy, with reversion from renewable to conventional [AIE 19]. The reduction in firewood cooking practices leads to only minimal effects of transferring renewable energies to hydrocarbon uses. This decrease is almost non-existent, and therefore cannot be blamed on these reversionary phenomena.


Figure 5.2. Dynamics of the energy mix in Africa. For a color version of this figure, see www.iste.co.uk/alaktif/climate.zip

The dynamics at work in Africa are economic, political and linked to climate change. Take the case of Mauritania, which, due to the increase in hydrocarbon prices since the mid-1970s, has overexploited its forest resources, which have disappeared. The high cost of fossil fuels has led to the use of traditional solutions based on wood fuel. The question raised is therefore that of the sustainability of a complex process: for example, in the positive case where withdrawals may be minor, climate change can play a positive role in forest expansion so that the forest domain expands. Mauritania presents the process with the most negative effects. An intermediate situation is that of overexploitation of peri-urban forest areas: urban households use firewood and charcoal produced in an inefficient way, which degrades the peri-urban periphery. Renewable energies make it possible to maintain low energy prices and access to energy under extreme conditions. However, renewable energy is not necessarily sustainable: for example, the low price of renewable energy increases the pressure on water resources by reducing the price of pumping, which poses the problem of implementing sustainable groundwater management.

5.3.2. Senegal’s Renewable Energy Access Program

The conditions for the success of renewable energy access programs are examined here using the example of the Sahel regions in northern Senegal. An example of these programs, which are more particularly evaluated, is REAP (Renewable Energy Access Program) in Senegal. The data collected are those of the NGO Le Partenariat, which is involved in the implementation of REAP in the Saint-Louis region of Senegal.

Senegal’s energy context is that of an energy mix of 50% for petroleum products and 1.5% for renewable energies excluding biomass. The last important decision taken at the national level is the installation of large photovoltaic installations. Biomass resources, such as wood, are overexploited and tend to decline. The Senegalese State is implementing a National Biogas Programme, for which the Le Partenariat is the operator for northern Senegal. REAP aims to support the change of scale and the emergence of a Senegalese biogas market through the construction of 2000 additional biodigesters in the Saint-Louis region (10,000 for the whole of Senegal), training of Senegalese business personnel in biogas technology, raising awareness among local communities and populations, promoting research on biomass sectors and supporting the sustainable supply of domestic fuels through the dissemination of improved stoves. For example, the program equipped a fish processing site using solar equipment and a biogas plant with five biodigesters.

The improvements sought on demonstrators and the implementations initiated in other countries are other aspects of these renewable energy access programs. The few salient features of this micro-methanization approach are the development of these specific waste recovery technologies, which are also of interest to Northern countries, their low cost for user populations and their knock-on effect for education for sustainable development.

In a report drawn up in 2013 for the Senegalese State by the Minister of the Environment, who had finished his term of office, it was noted that there was a contrast between Senegal’s existing renewable energy potential and the very low level of achievement. The balance of the biogas sector was 526 biodigesters installed for the whole of Senegal in 2013. A target of 50% access to electricity for rural areas by 2012 had not been achieved. The resources recorded for renewable energies were those of large and small hydroelectricity, coastal wind and solar energy, and biomass resources that were estimated at 30,000 tons/day for animal waste alone and 100,000 tons/year for the typha australis of the Senegal River alone. The Renewable Energy Access Programme is part of a more general pattern of Senegal’s emergence. The current configuration of the electrical diagram consists of three levels, in a centralized flowchart. A public electricity company is vertically integrated, acting as producer and manager of Senegal’s electricity grid. Senegal is administratively organized with a partition into a Regional Development Agency. These agencies are at the same territorial level as the regional electricity companies, chosen on the basis of a call for tenders with a price cap of approximately 10 euro cents per KWH. In four regions of Senegal, there has been no candidate company, leaving the national company in a monopoly situation, and in the other regions, competition is limited to the duopoly of the national company and the regional company. In a public conference, this former Minister of the Environment indicated that the development of renewable energies is mainly hampered by the lack of expertise and mastery of know-how at all levels. This conclusion for public actors can also be generalized for private actors, who do not rush to respond to calls for tenders. These missing skills, both on the public and private sides, are technical as well as economic and social. This conclusion is contrary to the “Soviet” vision of development, still defended as an option for Africa. However, the alternative for Africa lies between the “Soviet” option and that of an Africa that fully assumes the energy transition, building on its lead in frugality of energy consumption and biomass use [MAF 16].

The Renewable Energy Access Program is part of a decentralization process. Micro-methanization solutions are well suited to rural development and microgrid approaches in the absence of a low-voltage electricity grid. The “on-farm” production units correspond to a small livestock (larger than 5 or 10 cattle depending on the composition of the manure used) and an initial organic waste pile of about three tonnes to load the biodigester. The optimal digester regime is achieved with a stable composition of regular inputs. For example, a mixed daily intake of 60% typha australis and 40% cow dung gives about 50% more biogas than manure alone. Typha australis is a reed of local flora that proliferates and damages crops and must therefore be mowed.


Figure 5.3. Micro-methanization

The digestate obtained is a marketable bio-assimilable NPK fertilizer, which provides financial resources to the farm. The gas is used to supply the kitchen and lighting for local self-consumption. The criteria used to select projects are governance and leadership criteria, ripple effects on the local economy, the ability to manage change towards renewable energy, in addition to risk analysis [PAR 18]. The model is entrepreneurial, with very different governance structures. Proposals with strong leverage effects on the local economy are favored by these criteria, for example, the supply of a market gardening area with a biogas and photovoltaic system that ensures the functioning of plot irrigation and the cooperative supply of fertilizer in self-production.

The balance that can be drawn from an example such as that of a vegetable garden in Cas–Cas, where it is an energy transition of 456 plots irrigated from a diesel pump, replaced by a solar-biogas system, is that of a triple “dividend”, namely, a reduction in operating costs due to the very high cost of hydrocarbons, a reduction in carbon emissions and the creation of new activities.

These different criteria led to the proposal of a model for REAPS's energy intervention, that of electrified activity zones, based on a solar and biogas energy system. This microgrid solution provides a service offer to local craftsmen, which makes it possible to achieve an intermediate objective of universal access to electricity for professional activities. The existence of a microgrid is a factor that also plays a role in the long-term connection to the low-voltage electricity grid.


Figure 5.4. The electrified activity area. Source: ARD Saint Louis

The Saint Louis region is characterized by low access to energy and many challenges. There are significant disparities between urban and rural areas due to inequitable access to energy services: only 13% of rural areas have access to electricity, compared to 29% nationally in Senegal.


Figure 5.5. REAP objectives. Source: ARD Saint Louis

The penetration rate of new renewable energies remains low in Senegal, both at the scale of major infrastructures and at the individual level. New energy infrastructure is sometimes favorable, such as solar power plants, as well as unfavorable to renewable energies, such as coal-fired power plants. The rate used for Senegal by the IEA in its latest report [AIE 19] is 38% in total for renewable energy (old and new), which represents a significant drop compared to previous rates. This reversion is due to various factors that will continue to play a role in the coming years: the discovery and development of oil and gas fields in northern Senegal and Mauritania, the technological choices of the national electricity company and a rise in living standards that increases the demand for old energy products (hydrocarbons).

Economic operators are in loss-making economic situations due to the high cost of old energy (hydrocarbons). The high price of hydrocarbons leads to over-consumption of firewood. The use of firewood accelerates desertification. In the department of Podor, the rate of wood consumption reaches 85% of households.

The Niamey agreements of February 2019 concern an investment plan for the Sahel (17 Sahelian countries concerned, including Senegal) on the two aspects of the fight against climate change, namely, mitigation and adaptation. However, the provisions announced seem to mainly concern adaptation: the $392.709 billion Climate Investment Plan (CIP) for the period 2019–2030 to promote the reduction of climate impacts in this region is better endowed than the estimated $1.32 billion Priority Regional Program (PRP) to accelerate climate investment in the region for the period 2020–2025. An institutional mechanism, through the creation of a permanent secretariat based in Niamey, is planned to monitor the implementation of all projects related to this Climate Investment Program.

5.3.3. A need to articulate public decentralization and renewable energy

Act III of the Senegalese Decentralization Act offers local and regional authorities the opportunity to undertake sustainable initiatives to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG 7 (“7.1: By 2030, guarantee universal access to reliable and modern energy services at an affordable cost”; “7.2: By 2030, significantly increase the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix”; “7.3: By 2030, double the global rate of energy efficiency improvement”).


Figure 5.6. Renewable energy policy in the Saint-Louis region. Source: ARD Saint Louis

Local authorities, as part of the animation of sustainable development, have difficulties in integrating the “energy” dimension into the management of territories, both in the coordination of initiatives and in operational planning and implementation. There is no regional consultation mechanism for energy access.

The regional energy diagnosis indicates the greatest dissatisfaction with the services provided by the regional company (COMASEL). Proposals for reform exist for the entire organizational structure of the electricity sector, but, as the authors of these proposals admit, they do not take into account the renewable energy dimension of the problem [BA 18]. Rather, it is a scenario that promotes SDGs 7.1 and 7.3, to the detriment of SDG 7.2, i.e. energy mixes fixed in technological conservatism, which is emerging on a global scale according to the latest IEA report [AIE 19]. The World Bank databases indicate processes in terms of energy efficiency gains (SDG 7.3) that are not very different between countries, with Senegal’s situation being in line with global trends and averages. More difficult to explain is the reversion phenomenon in old sectors, which is observed on a global scale, and which can also be applied to Senegal [AIE 19].

5.3.4. Quality, pricing and decentralization: an international political economy of energy access

An international political economy through a microcosm: the Bargny power plant (near Dakar) is a new coal-fired power plant that will start producing (see TV5 monde report [TV5 18]). The director of the public company says he prefers development to sustainable development in his press statements. A quick solution had to be found for the inhabitants of the capital in the face of frequent power cuts. The technical solution chosen by the historic electricity-producing firm is particularly damaging due to the high GHG emissions. On the other hand, artisanal activities are seen in women’s cooperatives who process fish. These cooperatives are equipped with kitchens using biogas from fish waste. This conflict situation forms a model, with a local elected official in favor of the historic firm project, and the artisanal activities of the fishing industry in opposition; a little like the beginning of the Cold War was immortalized in a microcosm with the conflict between Peppone and Don Camillo in 1951.

Table 5.1. Mitigation and adaptation

  Mitigation Adaptation
Bargny power plant Sacrificed mitigation: pro-carbon policy Standard responses to climate change: planned internal displacement and urban development
Biomass Methane capture policy Supply of energy from biomass. Countermeasures if biomass decreases. Use of biomass as energy for the growth of the natural product in wetlands (proliferation of typha australis reeds)

The structure of preferences for services with access to electricity is bimodal: the most appreciated solutions are either bottom-up solutions for renewable energy “on the farm” (“Don Camillo” solution) or SENELEC, the national company that installs the coal-fired power plant (“Peppone” solution with a “Soviet” vision of development). The least appreciated firms are the regional producers, chosen according to a price cap allocation procedure, which competes with the public firm SENELEC.

Table 5.2. Perceived quality of energy services

Supplier Not satisfied Not very satisfied Satisfied Very satisfied
COMASEL 58.4% 25.8% 15.7% 0%
SENELEC 8.6 37.3 47.2 7
Staff 13.2 35.8 30.2 20.8
Neighbor 13.9 41.7 38.9 5.6
Other 45.7 43.2 11.1 0
TOTAL 13.8% 37% 42.6% 6.6%

The Paris Agreement (COP 21) in its structure has a political economy dimension: political trade-offs will indeed be decisive for the results in terms of mitigation and adaptation to climate change. What is the mayor of Bargny doing: he is installing a huge polluting installation that will cover the demand of the Dakar metropolis. Faced with marine erosion, he created ex nihilo a new town setback from the coast, financed by the installation of the coal-fired power plant. A policy contrary to mitigation finances an interventionist adaptation. Considered on a global scale, this is an explanation of the poor global results observed by the International Energy Agency [AIE 19]. “Don Camillo” solutions that combine mitigation and adaptation have a low impact on global results. In world statistics, Senegal, which did not use coal until 2015, finds itself with a power plant operating with the most polluting process, which is reflected in the IEA report: growth in coal consumption, the energy choice that alone accounts for 45% of carbon emissions, after COP 21.

This is only a case study. It provides evidence for a more decentralized vision of the energy sector. The main objective is to improve the distribution of both energy and biogas by-products such as fertilizers (digestate, whose production volume represents 70–90% of the tonnage of inputs). An effort to modernize distribution in Senegal in favor of renewable energies seems to us to be an important step forward.

There are proposals for revising the electricity sector scheme in Senegal, which would lead to a strengthening of monopoly positions within the interconnected network [BA 18]. The risk is then to have an electricity grid with an energy mix very unfavorable to renewable energies, due to the lack of experience of the major historical electricity operators with regard to both the Sahel biome and the social conditions for the effective implementation of renewable energies. These would remain confined to situations outside the main grid, in “on-farm” or microgrid solutions.

  1. 1 http://www.charte-diversite.com/charte-diversite-la-charte.php.
  2. 2 htIQs://www.globalreporting.org/resourcelibrary/French-How-To-Use-the-GRI-Guidelines-In-Conjunction-With-ISO26000.pdf.
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