Works Councils in French companies with over 50 employees are going green

With the law of 22 August 2021 on fighting climate change, Works Councils (Social and Economic Committees - CSE) have been recognized as participants in the fight against climate change.

Environmental issues have been gradually gaining influence in company management in recent years, particularly through the following provisions:

  • Since January 2020 negotiations on gender equality and the work-life quality in companies employing at least 50 employees on a same site must include measures to improve commuting arrangements by encouraging the use of environmentally friendly transport. If no agreement is reached, the company must implement an Employer Mobility Plan.
  • Environmental assessments are required in the event of site closure.
  • The “alert right” on public health and environmental issues.
  • Since May 2020 employers have the option to pay a sustainable mobility allowance to contribute to employees’ eco-friendly commuting costs.

What's new in 2021?

  • The CSE needs to be consulted on the environmental impact of the company's activity:
    • In the three compulsory annual CSE consultations (strategic orientations, economic and financial situation, social policy)
    • In ad hoc CSE consultations relating to the organisation, management and general running of the company.
  • The members of the CSE can be trained on these issues
  • The Social and Economic Database (BDES) has become the Social Economic and Environmental Database (BDESE) without defining the precise content relating to the new environmental dimension (articles R. 2312-8 and R.2312-9 of the Labour Code).

Anticipated consequences

  • Legal uncertainty: how far do companies need to go to analyse its environmental impact? Does this include supply chain and distribution channels or even more broadly the marketing chain? Courts may interpret obligations differently in the absence of a statutory definition.
  • Additional awareness on environmental issues may be used to support remote working requests, particularly following the lockdowns.
  • The right to alert on environmental issues, rarely used in practice, could now serve as an additional tool for employee representatives to delay the implementation of important projects (relocations, restructuring)
  • In the context of large redundancies and social plans, the labour authorities will include the environmental consequences of the project in their review of the CSE consultation process, so this must be considered when preparing a restructuring project.
  • Analysis carried out by CSE experts will also now include the company’s environmental impact, meaning that they will engage specialists to conduct this review, which will increase the costs that the company must bear.

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