We don’t define alone what matters for CAP conseil. After an internal brainstorming, we challenged ourselves with external stakeholders in a panel discussion in March 2014: 14 topics emerged. This mountain is our materiality matrix with our 7 ranked core issuesG4-19; G4-20; G4-21.
Making a difference, for clients and Society
Our client survey indicates 94% client satisfaction. This is great, but beyond this number, Society waits for real change. Measuring and mostly improving our client’s impact (act in a more responsible way) is our holy grail. It enables us to adjust our advices and adapt our future services, like we do on sustainable procurement.
Helping others in doing their job in a more responsible way is our core business and our contribution to the sustainable development of the Society. We are only useful if our clients improve. What a dependency for an independent consultant! The quest for the causality link to prove our final impact is endless and difficult. Ensuring the societal added-value of our advices and their real applicability is therefore a key issue for us which we measure after each contract. But this question is hard to quantify for the client too! Some interventions only show their effect long after our services are performed.
“CAP’s consultants offer a real added value to their partners – customers and society – through their advices but also through their critical perspective and their own practice of business”.
Valérie Swaen – CSR Professor at the Louvain School of Management
Indeed, despite our best efforts, there seems to be a gap between the quality of our advices and the improvement of the societal performance of our clients (33%). We regret this statement and try to dig into the reasons of it. It could be a lack of operationality, the economic or political context, the missing link between our direct contact and his top management, a clash of priorities, budget imperatives, time and resources imperatives,… This topic will be on the agenda of our next stakeholder consultation and added to our evaluation forms.
Sustainable development should be fun to happen! This is one of CAP conseil’s leitmotivs since its very beginning. However, fun is not enough nor to make sustainability reality nor to bring us contracts. We have to be demanding and serve our clients the best we can.
The respect of our client also concerns other dimensions, such as:
- Honoring our commitments;
- Be compliant with schedule and budgetary framework;
- Keeping their struggles and data confidential;
- Reperforming the tasks that would not be performed to full satisfaction (very rare!).
We bet a lot on making sustainability easier and desirable. We rely on internationally recognized standards, and develop tailor-made new tools to help our clients identify and address their CSR issues. Over the year, we have developed our ability to limit jargon, to formulate pragmatic advices and to assist our clients in turning recommendations into reality. Whilst the added-value of our advices is something we cannot easily measure, we try hard to quantify our impact.
Our clients overall satisfaction level remains very high: 94,7% for the last two years. However, compared to our ‘dictatorial’ score of 2012 (96%) this represents a drop of more than 1%! It’s likely due to the fact that our jokes were better back then… We ensure you we will try to do better in the coming years.
Making sustainability within reach of everyone
It would be sending a wrong signal to reserve our advice to only those who can pay “a consultant”. If sustainability has to address the needs of all, then it must be affordable. This is why, in addition to working with Western organisations from the private and public sector, we are also likely to adapt our prices to the realities of NGOs, non-profit associations and stakeholders based in less economically developed countries, sometimes up to 50% reduction compared to fees reasonably charged to private structures. In the course of 2013-2014, we offered training services to 7 not-for-profit organizations at adapted prices, including 2 projects in Africa. We also continue to give courses to students for free. The younger they integrate sustainability in their studies, the higher the chance that they will embed it in their later professional life.
Learning to stay sharp
Sustainability is a fast-moving topic. Knowledge evolves, and ideas that were once good sometimes turn into wrong misconceptions. To offer new ways to tackle corporate responsibility, we attend many original conferences and listen to off-stream experts. We learn, try and test for you about 340 hours a year!
Maintaining a high level of knowledge of social responsibility and sustainable development issues in a fast changing world is essential to provide accurate advices to our clients. Knowledge management is thus key to maintain CAP’s quality label. What will be tomorrow client’s needs regarding sustainable development? We motivate each other to maintain curiosity and keep a critical mind. We read the press, for instance ‘Alternatives économiques’ or ‘Terra Eco’. We follow closely specific debates and blogs around Human Rights, Supply Chains,… and invest time and money to contribute to drafting standards. These processes keep us informed and contribute to the state of the art in sustainability.
We are happy to confirm to our expertise is the #1 reason for people to work with us:
Everyone is encouraged to participate to conferences and debates that nourish our knowledge and share it with other team members. We try new ideas and follow targeted trainings. During our employee’s annual evaluation we discuss sustainability topics of interest, and decide to invest targeted time per topic.
CAP’s team followed 340 hours training in 2013-2014 (average 68h or 8.5 days per employee G4-LA9): about sustainable procurement, responsible (public) procurement, ISO 26000, Life Cycle Analysis, GRI certified training
“CAP is specialist in international sustainable-related standards”
Sabine Denis – CEO of TheShift
Finding new sustainability practices
The current crises change our client’s priorities. We try to support them by bringing simple and efficient methods that make sustainability operational. This requires from CAP suppleness and inventivity. In 2014, we developed 3 new tools to make our clients work easier.
Daily news give us an overview of the hard times we are living in: crises, stress, austerity, unemployment, and widespread discontent. But one positive driver takes its origins in those difficult times: innovation. If something does not work or does not exist, mankind seeks for solutions. Solutions are our daily business too: we bring (the best possible) solutions to our customer’s problems.
We often work with top management on company’s strategic issues and they expect rigorous, pragmatic and creative services. Our team has in its DNA the ability to think out of the box and to have a non-conventional and visionary approach for sustainability issues.
This is how we nurture this way of thinking:
- For each project, at least 2 colleagues team up in order to bring flexibility and cross-breed ideas. The other team members are informed every week on the advancement, bottlenecks and results of each project.
- We organise regular brainstorming between all team members on our projects and we listen to different ideas. We draw, test, sketch, until we are satisfied…and the client too. This often brings us innovative approaches to manage a project.
- If needed, we search and call upon external specialists to contribute to new solutions.
Through these approaches and internal debates, we try to find a subtle balance between a “new solid approach or methodology” and “conventional/rigorous results”.
Turning CAP into a desirable place to work
In a small company, each person counts. Everyone must feel welcome, useful and respected. We want values to be lived daily. We know time and space management is a tricky issue and to take care of our wellbeing we brainstorm together. The longer you stay, the better…
We spend 5 days a week to work: what makes us wants to come every day? The beauty of our projects, the level of responsibilities and the variety of assignments are important but we believe that salary, work/life balance, work environment, stress management are equally as important. Good working conditions are a trigger for motivation. We want a sustainable result for our clients, but we also want a sustainable “way of life” for our team and partners. As a small company, we are all close colleagues. We talk a lot and share the same realities! We are regularly faced with stress issues, ours, and our client’s. We try to have a flexible team that can quickly react and adapt itself to change and variation. And yet, it is not always easy to address tricky issues between managers and employees.
CAP’s management is always open to discussion with its employees, and asks for their opinion all year long, and more specifically during their yearly evaluation. We discuss salary, work@home possibilities, office facilities, interest for the job and stress management to ensure wellbeing at work.
Screening, measuring, sharing, showing…daily
Being consistent and apply for ourselves the advices we give to our clients is the basis of our credibility. In 2013-14, we weighed for 119 ton CO2eq., gave 2000€ to an NGO in DRC, tried the new Fairphone, and wrote our 2nd GRI report.
Since the very beginning in 2003, we built CAP conseil and managed it with a sustainable development approach. Sustainability is a shared concern and a reason to work for CAP conseil. Everyone has a responsibility to contribute to its implementation and is expected to put our values in practice.
Applying for ourselves the advice we give to our clients is not only obvious, but truly essential for our credibility too. This confronts us directly to the difficulties to apply (even simple) good practices in the context of a constantly accelerated “business-as-usual” rhythm. For instance: monitoring our activities, reporting, saving energy (including our own!), we also often rush faster in our car than in train stations…and still love to travel abroad.
When we wrote our first GRI report in 2012, our purpose was to produce a new report every year. We see the reporting process as an important strategic exercise which forces us to question CAP’s added value with our stakeholders. Two years later, we had to scale down this ambition. Thorough reporting process takes a lot of time and we decided to make a detailed report every two years.
Our biggest challenge in the coming year will be to increase the level of detail and quality of our indicators to have a better leverage in-house and in CAP’s sphere of influence.
As anecdotic as it may be, we work almost paperless, drink fair-trade coffee and extend the use of our electric goods and cars beyond their fiscal lifetime.
Feeding a “wiki-SR”
Knowledge on sustainable development should be accessible to all. We free up time to write articles, give free presentations and take part to emerging debates. It is a challenge to adopt reflexes of collaborative intelligence when you make a living out of your advice.
CAP wants to be an actor that counts in the transition towards a more sustainable Society. We feel responsible to share our knowledge and increase the global concern regarding sustainable development. To do so, we take an active participation in various conferences/workshops, write articles that are made available on our website and deliver free of charge lectures to university students. CAP also shares methodologies and tools with partners to help them evolve in a process of continuous improvement.
We want our clients to feel autonomous after our intervention. We give all our tools and tricks without blackbox so they can continue after we’ve left. Putting some information or methods out in the public space requires confidence and daring in a highly competitive market. We hope it serves the right cause and contributes to our brand at the same time.
Being fair in contracts and relationships
How do you spot a good consultant? He gives you value(s) for money and you want to work with or for him. Treat our clients and partners like we love to be treated ourselves: discretely, respectfully, professionally. That’s our ambition. 150 clients trusted us in 11 years, with over 50% repeat business. We find it great.
Maintaining good and honest relationships with its business partners, subcontractors and suppliers is a basic in corporate social responsibility. Yes, we’re all humans with different characters and reactions.
We believe, though, that it is important for at least 3 reasons:
- Stress is a dangerously contagious disease. And as consultants, we are in the frontline of the epidemic. This is probably one of the most unpleasant aspects of our work. When a client’s boss puts him/her under reckless pressure, this almost always reflects on us. We really strive to break this negative spiral and not to discharge this stress on our colleagues, suppliers or partners. This is sometimes challenging, since the quality of our work and the satisfaction of our client remain our Top 1 priority.
- A good cash flow is sometimes a survival issue. In 2013, statistics showed that 25% of Belgian bankrupcies were due to late payment of invoices. This concern is even more critical for small organisations like ours. When working with external partners or subcontractors, we attach real importance to pay their bills as fast as possible. In our case, this means: do our best to be paid by our client as soon as possible, so we can pay our employees and partners their respective shares. We do not have an indicator regarding the average time of our clients to process our invoices and luckily up to now clients have been trustworthy. We have had 2 cases of non-payment from our clients in more than 10 years.
- Repeat business is more comfortable: we often over perform to deliver value and quality work for the price we are paid. We want good experiences to be repeated, so we treat our clients and partners the best way we can to continue a collaboration in the long-run. This is only possible with fair operating practices. Constantly, we have a rate of returning clients (or repeat business) of about 50%. We find it perfect; we convince new clients every year, while half of the previous ones ask us for more!
We don’t just do “anything for anyone” – we know what we do and for whom we do it. We care for due diligence regarding human rights in our client’s business. Managing a sustainable supply chain is tomorrow’s challenge and we want to help our clients gain insight and adjust their buying practices. We invest in sustainable supply chain knowledge, tools and standards to be able to advise the touchiest sectors, like textile or precious stones.