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French media giant adds ecological impact to its corporate mission

Group head Pierre Louette argues media need to start driving change instead of just covering it

Last Friday one of France’s largest media holdings Groupe Les Échos-Le Parisien (a part of corporate giant LVMH) announced a new company mission, or as they call it, their “corporate reason why.”

Instead of sticking with just news coverage, the group is aiming to “encourage the emergence of a new responsible society by informing, mobilizing and supporting citizens and businesses on a daily basis.”

As part of the shift, the company launched a new digital magazine Les Echos Planète that aims to shed light on environmental challenges. Unlike other parts of the holding, the magazine will not be placed behind a paywall.

“Encourage the emergence of a new responsible society by informing, mobilizing and supporting citizens and businesses on a daily basis.”

New corporate mission of Groupe Les Échos-Le Parisien

Pierre Louette, head of Les Échos-Le Parisien group and former CEO of Agence-France Presse, believes media should go beyond simply covering the news coverage and start driving changes more aggressively.

The media group’s move is not just tied to a new philosophy, though, but rather should be seen in the context of a broader movement in France’s corporate governance. A law passed last year now includes ecological and social impact into the definition of a company – not just financial considerations.

Louette says they want to be part of the solution. “We have to be part of the vision ourselves”. The Fix spoke to him about the thinking behind the media group’s decision.

Pierre Louette during the Change Now conference in Paris

This interview has been edited and condensed

ZP: Why did you decide to announce the new mission now? There have been recent changes in French legislation – how much did they impact your decision?

PL: I decided to change the mission about 9 months ago. We wanted to change the purpose of our organization. Also, the law changed in France less than a year ago. Previously, the law defined a company as a place where shareholders share profits. Now it also includes considerations of impact on ecology and society.

You’re right, the law actually tried to shape society. But sometimes the nose paves the way and this time the law was running behind. We feel society is ready for that now. Every day there is a growing interest and the growing preoccupation with regard to what happens in the world.

Also, one of the reasons we decided to announce the purpose of the company was the opening of Change Now [one of the world’s largest social impact conferences, held in Paris on Jan. 30 – Feb. 1 – The Fix]. Change Now has seen an incredible expansion. Last year, it had about 6,000 visitors. This year only in the two first days it’s about 20,000 visitors. It’s exploding in a positive way.

ZP: Why is the environment so important in your mission?

PL: There are several issues. We have our new reason why and a new part of the website, which is dedicated to the many faces of the changing planet and of the fight for our environment. It’s solution-driven. We felt that it was the right time and also we found a partner to do it with [Rolex is partner of the ecology focused magazine – The Fix].

ZP: Does such a mission move you in the direction of activism? How do you plan to stay objective and provide impartial news coverage?

PL: There is a clear distinction for us between what our media group does and activism. Myself, I see no negative points of view. Activists do what activists do. They want to be super active and demonstrate and create events and sometimes create violent events in which things are put forward.

We cover the news. Les Échos has been around for 111 years. We’ve been active in covering the economic world and companies for all those years with a very independent point of view – but from the point of view of a company that likes liberal enterprise-based economies. We feel such a system creates the most jobs and is able to best adapt.

What we just announced shows that the company’s purpose now includes elements beyond just sharing profits. We feel the biggest changes will take place within companies, and they will bring perspective. We will cover what activists do to share information about them, but everybody has a role to play and we’re not going to be an activist.

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