Dr. Soumyadeb Chowdhury, The Head of TBS Education Center of Excellence CSR and Sustainable Development and Associate Professor in Emerging Technology and Sustainability Management contributed and co-authored the Sustainability section in the 2022 Word Economic Forum Report Future Readiness of SMEs and Mid-Sized Companies: A Year On.

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The report in its second year looks at future readiness pathways on attracting and cultivating talent that will drive digital transformation and sustainable strategies within organisations to boost business productivity and organisational resilience.

The World Economic Forum hopes to make use of the insights generated by this report to provide assistance to SMEs and mid-sized companies on their journey to becoming future-ready.

Soumyadeb Chowdhury representing TBS Education participated in a panel discussion and facilitated a workshop at the forum to co-create knowledge with the Business Champions and practitioners. The panel discussion and workshop unearthed successful and effective strategies to enhance sustainability and digital initiatives within organisations without undermining the role of employees in the evolving and uncertain business environment.

Based on the research conducted in project collaborations between Professor Prasanta Dey Aston University and TBS Education, and funded by various research councils and funding bodies, the report provides tangible recommendations that will help SMEs and mid-sized organisations in their green transition as well as systematic digital transformation in this latest second 2022 edition.

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TBS Education, Center of Excellence CSR and Sustainable Development, Soumyadeb Chowdhury and Dean of Research Samuel Fosso Wamba will continue to further develop and evolve this research to include emerging themes such water footprint, sustainable resilience, disruptive sustainability, risk and resilience, supply chain diligence Industry 5.0, employee-centric low carbon practices, emerging technology and wellbeing, by extending multi-stakeholder, transdisciplinary and international collaborations.

Our school has been ranked seventh out of 58 for its commitment to the ecological transition. The accolade came in the second edition of ChangeNOW/Les Echos START 2022 ranking for Corporate Social Responsibility.

TBS Education is pioneer in this field and holder of the SD&CSR (Sustainable Development and Corporate Social Responsibility) label. We have been involved in the fields of sustainable development (SD) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) since 2007.

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“Through research with societal impact, TBS Education trains a diversity of open-minded actors who will be able to contribute to a responsible and sustainable economy within their own organizations “. – TBS Education’s vision

Our school became a mission-driven company in 2021. Our vision is now enshrined in our charter and reflects our social, societal, and environmental commitments to a more sustainable and responsible economy that underpins a positive society.


With a total of 112 points out of 161, our school was ranked 1st in 2 categories: alumni network and the institution’s strategy and exemplary nature. This is a significant recognition of the efforts made in recent years in terms of ecological and social transition.

The 6 themes of the ranking:

  • Alumni network: 

TBS Education: 1st with 12 points (out of 12)

  • The institution’s strategy and exemplary character: 

TBS Education: 1st with 17 points (out of 18)

  • Diversity and equal opportunities:

TBS Education: 5th with 20 points (out of 29)

  • Academic excellence and employability: 

TBS Education: 8th with 20 points (out of 28)

  • High-density impact of the program: 

TBS Education: 14th with 33 points (out of 72)

  • Involvement of student associations: 

TBS Education: 14th with 10 points (out of 15)


Our school is in the top five business schools for commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). That’s according to a survey of more than 10,000 students and recent graduates. It was conducted by Harris Interactive & Toluna with L’Etudiant and Epoka: Students in Master’s in Management Schools and Universites programs.

The schools’ performance was defined according to a global index that includes 4 criteria:

  • The importance of CSR in the choice of an employer
  • The school’s contribution to sustainable development
  • The school’s perception of CSR

Awareness of the humanitarian efforts made in the context of the conflict in Ukraine. This ranking is therefore a clear endorsement of our school’s commitment to ecological and societal transition.

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“Through research with societal impact, TBS Education trains a diversity of open-minded actors who will be able to contribute to a responsible and sustainable economy within their own organizations.” – TBS Education’s vision

Our school became a mission-driven company in 2021. Our vision is now enshrined in our charter and reflects our social, societal, and environmental commitments to a more sustainable and responsible economy that underpins a positive society.


Our Master’s in Management program is ranked 67th in the prestigious QS Business Masters Rankings 2023. It is also among the 147 best business schools worldwide, and 10th in terms of diversity. TBS Education wishes to reinforce its international openness by considering environmental issues, and aims to become an even more inclusive school in terms of social openness and disability.

“In addition to the 5-place rise of the Master’s in Management program in this international ranking, I am particularly proud to be in the world’s top 10 on this diversity criterion. This reflects both the gender balance in our classrooms and the great diversity of nationalities among the professors and students who work together in our campuses in Toulouse, Barcelona, Paris and Casablanca.” – Anne Rivière – Director of the Master’s in Management and MSc programs

National Student Conference on Sustainable Development 2022

For this 17th edition of the National Student Conference on Sustainable Development (ANEDD), on Tuesday, December 6 and Wednesday, December 7, 2022, the topic chosen is “CSR: how to act in business? Come and meet our committed graduates!”

The objective of this event is to help students discover how companies incorporate social and environmental issues into their organization and decision-making.

Which business schools stand out in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)? ChooseMyCompany published its HappyIndex® AtSchool CSR Ranking which studies the CSR impact and the integration of sustainable development in the strategy of the schools. Our school has achieved 4th place in this ranking of French business schools.


A pioneer in this field and holder of the SD&CSR (Sustainable Development and Corporate Social Responsibility) label, TBS Education has been involved in the fields of sustainable development and corporate social responsibility since 2007.

Our school became a mission-driven company in 2021. Our vision is now enshrined in our charter and reflects our social, societal, and environmental commitments to a more sustainable and responsible economy that underpins a positive society.

“Through research with societal impact, TBS Education trains a diversity of open-minded actors who will be able to contribute to a responsible and sustainable economy within their own organizations.” – TBS Education’s vision

Taking fourth place in the HappyIndex® AtSchool CSR ranking is a strong endorsement of our school’s commitment to these issues.

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A total of 43,795 students from 860 schools, universities and CFA apprentice training centers were interviewed for this major HappyIndex®AtSchool 2022 ChooseMyCompany survey. Of the 20 questions in the HappyIndex®AtSchool questionnaire, 7 questions deal directly with CSR issues and cover the following aspects:

  • Students are environmentally aware
  • The school is committed to a green approach
  • Societal and environmental issues are integrated into the teaching
  • In my school, behavior is exemplary
  • The school reflects the diversity of the society in which we live
  • The school seeks to develop a network of partner companies that wish to have a positive impact on the environment and/or society
  • The school prepares students to have a positive impact on the world of tomorrow

This special CSR ranking focused on scoring these 7 questions to create a specific index.

National Student Conference on Sustainable Development 2022

For this 17th edition of the National Student Conference on Sustainable Development (ANEDD), on Tuesday, December 6 and Wednesday, December 7, 2022, the topic chosen is “CSR: how to act in business? Come and meet our committed graduates!”

The objective of this event is to help students discover how companies incorporate social and environmental issues into their organization and decision-making.

Gilles Lafforgue has been appointed member of the Commission on the Economy of Sustainable Development (CEDD) of the French Ministry of Ecological Transition. The title of qualified personality for his economic expertise was awarded to him in this context. Very involved in the research sphere in terms of sustainable development and recognized for his economic expertise, this professor-researcher at TBS Education had participated in the French Carbon Commission from 2017 to 2019. His involvement and the recognition of his high skills are confirmed with this new appointment.

The role of the Commission on Sustainable Development Economics

The CEDD was created on November 10, 2020 at the initiative of the French Prime Minister and the French Minister of Ecological Transition. It succeeds the Economic Council for Sustainable Development. The CEDD provides assistance to French public decision-making on sustainable development from an economic perspective.

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The mission of this consultative commission is to provide insight into the fields of the environment, energy and climate, transportation and housing. To do this, it relies on the analysis of statistical data and the comparison of economic analyses, the development and evaluation of public policies in these areas.

The objective of the “Environment” group

The professor-researcher will participate more specifically in the work of the “Environment” group, whose objective is to examine and discuss the economic accounts of the environment (monetary and physical flows relating to natural environments, natural resources, the circular economy, or the reduction of emissions and consumption).

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[su_pullquote align=”right”]By Ingrid Molderez and Kim Ceulemans [/su_pullquote]
Will our future business managers be able to tackle sustainability challenges? Can art contribute to acquiring sustainability competencies in management education? Our study explored the power of art to foster systems thinking, one of the key competencies of sustainability, and to help business students think more creatively about divergent views on sustainability.

Thirty years after the Brundtland Commission popularized the concept of sustainable development, the issue has become more urgent than ever. Global challenges such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, poverty and migration are omnipresent and are affecting everybody in spite of place and time. There are no easy or instant solutions, but education plays an important role in raising awareness on sustainability and in how to respond to these challenges.

Paul Shrivastava, an influential management and sustainability scholar, argues that education for sustainability requires more than just cognitive understanding. We need alternative ways of teaching that incorporate physical and emotional engagement (Shrivastava, 2010). However, pedagogical approaches that combine head, heart and hand are rare in management education. Management students are used to studying topics that immediately impact the knowledge and skills that they will need in a business context. Spiritual and/or creative ways of teaching are nearly absent. Yet, this is what we focused on in our research. We used art as a pedagogical way to enrich the whole person, to encourage critical and creative thinking around sustainability and we explored how management students react to this.

The concept of sustainability brings the importance of interconnections between human beings and nature back to the surface. The boundaries that have been created as splitting forces between humans and their environment have to be perceived as binding again, so that we can see ourselves again as functioning in togetherness. Changing towards sustainability generates intense emotions and at the same time, intense emotions are needed to be able to make a change towards sustainability. Art generates and encourages emotions, triggers our criticism and challenges our comfort. In relation to systems thinking and sustainability, art can help us to regain focus on the connections and interdependences of our systems.

In our study, we exposed management students to paintings during their Master’s level corporate social responsibility course. We did not especially focus on artists that use their art to criticise the negative environmental impacts human beings have. We opted for painters who are not known for their ecological engagement, but whose artwork makes us reflect upon the role human beings have in society. René Magritte’s painting Les Jours Gigantesques was a source of inspiration and reflection to help them think about and discuss boundaries as connecting and disconnecting forces in a sustainability context.

After class, we surveyed the participating students to study their receptiveness towards art in a management course. We explored whether they found art relevant to study three aspects of systems thinking, i.e., the system/environment relationship, thinking in patterns and relationships, and understanding the interactions between system and environment. For each of these aspects, the majority of the surveyed students agreed that art can be very relevant to discuss such issues. The students noted that using art was helpful for showing different points of view, that it facilitated understanding the topic from another perspective, and that it helped them to see the importance of connections within sustainability.

In this study, the majority of the students were receptive for using art because it acts as an eye opener and makes them think differently about sustainability. Nevertheless, some students were also very critical, because they had a fixed idea about art, i.e. only being relevant for an exhibition about sustainability rather than in a more abstract way to understand or discuss sustainability. They thought that showing pictures about what is really happening in the world would be more effective. However, it has to be underlined that art cannot be used in a functional way, as this goes counter to the core concepts of what art is about. Hence, we were not looking for a causal relationship between using art and effectively learning about sustainability, but we intended to explore ways to connect head, hand and heart in management education.

What can we learn from this research?

While management education is known for its functionalist approach, we should remember that business students can be receptive to alternative learning methods. Using paintings can be a relevant method for explaining sustainability topics, encouraging critical thinking, and adopting a holistic approach by triggering their creativity. Art can help students to think critically about sustainability concepts addressed in class, and shows them that there is space for different approaches and interpretations of such complex concepts.

Higher education has an important role to play in sensitising students towards sustainable development, and in helping them to develop competencies for addressing sustainability issues. Art and artists have a gift to make people think in a critical way, to go beyond boundaries, to initiate emotions which are all very relevant if we want to change our mindset on a topic (such as sustainability). Higher education could consider no longer reserving art for students in art-related disciplines, but to surpass the strict boundaries between disciplines. Art can be inspirational for every discipline and is worthy of a place in every study programme, including disciplines that are perceived as less receptive, such as management, engineering, law among many others.

[su_spoiler title=”Methodology”] This article was originally published at Economists Talk Art, based on: Molderez, I. & Ceulemans, K. (2018). The power of art to foster systems thinking, one of the key competencies of education for sustainable development. Journal of Cleaner Production, 186, 758-770. [/su_spoiler]

[su_pullquote align=”right”]By Sylvie BORAU[/su_pullquote]
The negative effects of exposure to advertising female models on women’s self-esteem and body satisfaction are now well known. But a new negative effect of advertising female models has been uncovered: they can be perceived as real sexual competitors by female consumers and trigger indirect aggression.

Female advertising models are highly physically attractive as well as ultra-thin, digitally-edited, and portrayed in a sexually provocative manner (for example, with pouting lips and arching hips). As a result, they represent formidable competitors. Of course, women know that they are very unlikely to meet these unreal threatening competitors in real life. But this knowledge does not stop them from considering these virtual models like real sexual competitors. Recent research I conducted with Jean-François Bonnefon from Toulouse School of Economics, investigated the consequences of this imaginary competition.

In a first series of studies, we asked 452 female respondents to answer online questionnaires. Female respondents were first exposed to the picture of either an ideal model (highly physically attractive, very thin, and adopting a sexually provocative attitude) or a non-ideal model (moderately attractive, average size, and with a non-provocative attitude). Then respondents answered some questions related to their reactions to the model. Results showed that women exposed to the ideal model expressed more mate-guarding jealousy (e.g., they were worried that their mate would leave them for a woman like this model), they expressed more derogatory comments (such as bullying, fat-shaming, or slut-shaming), and they expressed more social exclusion of their imaginary rival (e.g., they wouldn’t be friends with a woman like this model). In sum, female viewers engage in an imaginary intrasexual competition against ideal advertising models, targeting them with the same aggressive strategies they would use toward real-life rivals.

We then ran an additional study to identify which physical characteristic triggers indirect aggression. Does the provocative attitude of the models or their thin body size activate these aggressive strategies? To answer that question, we cross-manipulated the body size of the model and her provocative attitude. That is, female respondents were either exposed to a thin and provocative, a thin and non-provocative, an average size and provocative, or an average size and non-provocative female model. We found that the provocative attitude of the models, and not their thin body size, was the characteristic that triggered viewers to engage in indirect aggression. This is an important result, given the attention that the media put on the models’ body size, rather than on her provocative posture.

But why is the provocative posture of the models more likely to trigger intrasexual competition and indirect aggression than their thin body size? This is surprising considering the current obsession of women and the media for thinness. Further analyses suggested that female viewers engage in these aggressive strategies because the provocative attitude of the model – and not her thin body size – communicates an intention to seduce men, an intention to elicit men’s sexual desire, and, potentially, an intention to poach men. As in daily life, a sexually provocative attitude communicates confidence about one’s sex appeal, as well as flirtatiousness, sexual availability, and promiscuity. No wonder women feel threatened by provocative female models: they represent a menace to their current or prospective romantic relationships.

In daily life, when facing a menace to their romantic relationships, women usually experience jealousy. Jealousy is an emotion that warns the individual that an action must be taken to protect their current or prospective mate from a potential rival. And indirect aggression is women’s main action against female rivals and mate poachers. It involves the use of derogation and social exclusion. Our research shows indeed that women engage in indirect aggression when they are exposed to provocative female models, and do so regardless of the body size of the model displaying the attitude.

So, when advertisers feature a sexually provocative female model in their advertisements, they insidiously promote a culture of female bullying based on slut-shaming and social exclusion. Indeed, we have seen that the mere exposure to a sexually charged and provocative model is enough to activate Intrasexual competition and indirect aggression, as if female viewers were exposed to real-life rivals. We can imagine then that repeated media exposure to such imaginary rivals surely reinforces patterns of indirect aggression way beyond what would be expected from daily interactions with actual women, for at least two reasons: First, the use of sexually provocative models in advertising is pervasive. Second, the level of sexual provocativeness of models in advertising far exceeds the level of flirtatiousness performed by women in daily life.

To sum up, our research suggests that the use of sexually provocative models needlessly reinforces and fosters a culture of indirect aggression among women, fueling the alarming trends of Intrasexual bullying and slut shaming. Considering the unrealistic number of sexually provocative models in the media, women might be frequently subjected to these bouts of Intrasexual competition.

To curb the detrimental impact of sexual provocativeness in advertising, it would be wise to contain its pervasiveness and to avoid the most vulnerable consumers to be overly exposed to such ads. Because exposure is inevitable though, we recommend educating young audiences about these unintended effects – as young audiences are both more targeted by sexual appeals and more vulnerable. We do not recommend eradicating sexual provocativeness from advertising though, as banning these advertisements would be tantamount to giving a politically correct and archaic representation of women. However, consumer-advocate organizations, media watchdogs, and concerned citizens have a large role to play, both for raising public awareness and for incentivizing companies to maintain responsible practices.

This article was originally published in Brand Quarterly Magazine (January 2018).

[su_pullquote align=”right”]By Jean-Marc Décaudin and Denis Lacoste[/su_pullquote]
Selling services requires a very different approach to selling products. Services are intangible, and they are often produced and consumed simultaneously. Services cannot be stocked. It’s very difficult to maintain consistent quality and the customer is involved in the production of the service, which isn’t the case for tangible goods.

Marketing specialists started to consider these differences in the 1980s. Two French researchers, Pierre Eiglier and Eric Langeard, created the concept of “Servuction”, a neologism created from the words Service and Production, and which underlines the need for a specific approach to managing non-material goods. Since then, much work has been done in the field of services marketing, echoing their growing role in wealth- and job-creation. The goal of the research is to help managers in the banking, air transport, rental, health and wellbeing and other sectors, to consider the specifics of consumption and production that are driven by the characteristics of the different services.

Research focussed in particular on the field of advertising communications. There are many questions to be put to marketers, the main one being: how do you communicate something that can’t be seen, touched, smelled, heard, or tasted? Advertisers also had to work out how to communicate an experience which is perceived differently by different customers and whose quality can’t be guaranteed to be identical in all places and at all times. Coming up with communication axes which rest on objective technical characteristics – for cars, computers, TVs – is relatively easy. It’s a lot harder to communicate the type of experience on offer in an amusement park, on a dating site, or even in a university.

So the issue facing advertisers is how to successfully express what a service is, to represent it to a potential client in a manner powerful enough to make him or her notice the brand, become interested, and want to try out the service. Specialists have identified five key strategies. Businesses are advised to communicate:
• About the consumer benefits (price and performance)
• About the customer (testimonies drawn from customer reviews)
• About the customer-facing staff (focus on skills, the quality of customer relations)
• About the hardware associated with the service (the quality of the planes for air transport, equipment and supplies for a diving club or a ski resort)
• About its corporate image with a focus on the company’s values and commitments

How well the strategies work has been very little investigated, and most studies have focussed on only one communication strategy, so their usefulness to advertisers is limited.

That’s why our research aimed to test the effectiveness of each of the various communication axes by exposing customers to a series of adverts, each using a different axis. The results show that the effectiveness of the advert is hugely dependent on the dominant axis.
In the two sectors under study (banking and tourism), the most effective adverts are those that emphasise the customer. It could be a laughing child riding the Mine Train in Disneyland, a family eating out together at McDonald’s or a happy couple moving into their first home thanks to a mortgage agreement. The presence of a customer in the advertising reassures the consumer because it causes them to identify with someone who appreciates the service. We know that customer reassurance is fundamental in the service sectors, where risk is perceived as being high. In both the sectors, emphasising the physical dimension of the service also seems to be a very effective strategy (although a little less so than the first). The three other advertising axes under study are of far more limited effect, either on one of the two sectors, or on a single effectiveness variable.

The results of this research are useful for businesses in the service sector as well as to advertisers, because they give them specific elements with which to create new campaigns. Care is nonetheless called for because the results could be different in a different cultural context, in a different advertising format, or in other sectors.

[su_spoiler title=”Methodology”]The study looked at 50 press adverts in two markedly different sectors: banking (25 adverts) and tourism (25 adverts). Each ad chosen uses one of the communication axes (competitive advantage, contact staff, customers, physical dimension, brand image). In each of the two sectors, 5 different adverts using the same axis were used in order to limit the influence of creativity on the interviewees’ assessment of the product. The sample was made up of 249 respondents who were questioned online. Each respondent evaluated 25 adverts. 1245 evaluations are therefore available: 620 for banking and 625 for tourism. For each advert, a series of 22 questions were asked to measure attention level, how interesting the ad was, understanding the message, the level of curiosity sparked, attitude to the advert and the brand, and finally the impact of the ad on purchasing intentions.[/su_spoiler]

This research was published in the Journal of Marketing communications (2016) under the title “Services advertising: Showcase the Customer!” ».

[su_pullquote align=”right”]By Pierre-André Buigues[/su_pullquote]

Despite significant state aid, the French meat sector is losing ground against other European countries which are also in the Eurozone. Indeed, it’s the European market which has caused the deterioration of France’s position, and not globalisation, China, or other emerging economies.

No matter which sector we look at – poultry, pork or cattle – French meat farmers are in difficulties compared with their European competitors.
The French pork market : Production is markedly down, from 25.5 million pigs a year in 2000 to 21 million in 2016. Over the same period, it went up in several other European countries. In 2000, France and Spain were producing pigs at the same rate, whereas today Spain is producing 46 million pigs a year. France is now a net importer of pork products. The sector’s competitiveness has been eroded due to high costs and lack of investment.
The French cattle industry : France was the biggest European producer of beef in 2015: 1.49 million tons compared with Germany’s 1.12 tons and the UK’s 0.9 tons. 79% of the meat consumed in France was also produced there. Imports are essentially European. However, the average income of cattle farmers is among the lowest in the farming sector and is projected to decline steeply. In 2014, a typical cattle farmer’s earnings after tax were 22% below the average over an extended period (2000-2013).
The French poultry sector has also seen a drop in production over the last decade. France used to be the second biggest exporter of poultry in the world, but today it imports 40% of the poultry it consumes. The country has a trade deficit with other European countries in terms of both volume and value, and this deficit continues to deepen. The majority of French imports come from other European countries, with far less coming from non-European countries like Brazil or the USA.

Why are we seeing such a serious deterioration in the French meat sector?
We will look at the two main factors behind the decline: Le refus français d’une industrialisation de la filière viande, d’où des économies d’échelle insuffisantes.
France’s resistance to the industrialisation of its meat sector, and hence insufficient economies of scale: France has always supported family farms but the international meat markets are high-volume markets where price is the determining factor. Unlike the French domestic market where quality is highlighted by labels (red label – farm quality) and constitutes a competitive advantage, on the international market, price is key. While Germany has positioned itself as a producer of cheap and standardised meat products with an “industrial” image, France has a “gourmet” image and premium products. Unfortunately, at this stage in its development, the international meat market, whose growth is being powered by emerging countries, has little interest in quality. Cost is therefore the strategic variable for success on the international markets, so the French sector is paying the price for high costs and an absence of economies of scale.

In the pork production sector, the average size of a pig farm in France is between 1,000 and 2,000 pigs, as against Denmark and Holland, whose farms average 2,000 to 5,000 pigs. Moreover, between 2000 and 2010, the average size of a pig farm has grown by 98% in Denmark, by 37% in the Netherlands, by 29% in Spain and by only 16% in France. Finally, German abattoirs often exceed 50,000 pigs slaughtered annually. In France, what is needed is far fewer abattoirs and comprehensive modernisation.

In the beef and lamb sector, France is likewise suffering from the small size of its farms. The lawsuit taken against the only French farm with 1,000 cows (ultra-modern farm with a giant facility to produce energy from cattle waste via a methanizer and fitted with solar panels), shows how hostile French public opinion is towards industrialised farming.

In poultry production, French farms are far more numerous and also far smaller than German ones: German, Dutch and British poultry farms are the biggest in Europe, with an average volume above 60,000. In France, more than half of all poultry farms have a capacity of between 1,000 and 10,000, because of the importance of quality and origin labels (Red Label, organic, Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée), whose product specifications limit the size of buildings.

With farm sizes which don’t allow for economies of scale, and with labour costs well above some of its European competitors, the French animal agriculture sector is in great difficulty and is losing market share.

An avalanche of costly production standards and over-regulation compared with European norms

Stringent regulation is an indisputable factor in the economic difficulties facing the French meat sector. (2)
Often complicated and sometimes incomprehensible, these regulations place a very heavy administrative burden on farmers. A Senate report estimated that an average farmer spends 15 hours a week on office work. There are two main reasons for the relatively high cost of these production standards in France.

First and foremost, farms in France are, as we have seen, smaller than in European competitor countries. They therefore don’t possess the human or financial means to assimilate and implement these standards. Second, regulations often change in this sector, environmental standards are more and more exacting and require significant investment.

What does the future hold for French meat farming?

European farming is no longer just a sector regulated by the Common Agricultural Policy, but a competitive sector. In order to develop French meat farming, there are two possible strategies:
Strategic development of a quality-oriented farming sector : How can we find enough outlets for a high-end product with strong export branding to allow small farms to survive with high costs? There is a model in the French wine sector where prices are, on average, twice as high as the competition, and yet which still hold their own. This “high-end” strategy could save French farming. However, it will involve considerable investment in marketing and the international distribution chain.
Strategic development of intensive, low-cost farming : How can production costs be reduced? By heavy restructuring, and the elimination of uncompetitive “small farms”. Massive investment would also be needed to create ultra-modern farms, with state agencies fostering fully automated mega-farms – a far cry from today’s situation.
Is there a middle way? Xavier Beulin, former president of the FNSEA (the French farmers’ union) has estimated that investment to the tune of 6 billion Euros will be needed “to develop a third way between industrial farming and diversity, high-tech and diversified farming, organic and robotic farming”.

[su_spoiler title=”Methodology”]References: Elie Cohen et Pierre-André Buigues « Le décrochage industriel », Fayard, 2014; and Pierre-André Buigues, « Refonder l’agriculture française » Journée de l’économie, Jeco , Lyon, Novembre 2016 [/su_spoiler]

[su_pullquote align=”right”]Par Yuliya Snihur[/su_pullquote]

In the construction of a corporate identity for their business, creators of innovative start-ups have to simultaneously highlight their distinctiveness and also show that they belong to a pre-existing category of similar businesses. The objective is to reach “optimal distinction” which means finding a balance between an identity which is distinct from other businesses, and a “group” identity where they can show they belong to well-established business category. This balance is important if starts-ups are to grow their reputation and legitimacy.

To be unique but not too unique, that is the dilemma. A business’s first few years of existence are critical for the construction of its identity. It’s a period when creators make strategic choices which they must implement rapidly so that the business project survives and develops, but whose consequences are difficult to modify over the long term. The aim is to highlight the distinctiveness of the business while reassuring potential customers and partners about its normality. This balance is what’s known as “optimum distinction”. To succeed, a midway point has to be found between being unique, which contributes to the reputation of the firm, and the need to be like the others, to belong to a pre-existing and recognised group or category, which delivers legitimacy.

In search of optimum distinction

The challenge of building a corporate identity is something all new businesses have to face, but it’s even more intense for innovating companies with new business models, ie, a way of running their business which breaks away from existing practices in their sector. By definition, start-ups have no history or track record and are unknown to the general public, who have no frame of reference or benchmarks to rely on when it comes to trust.

What this study seeks to identify is the means by which innovating start-up companies build their reputation and legitimacy in the eyes of the public. To answer this question, we have analysed the way in which four young businesses built their identity. All four had introduced new business models, but each belonged to a different market sector: health, restaurants, digital services and the hotel sector. The results reveal four specific actions that were present in every case: these are storytelling, the use of analogy, seeking accreditation or reviews, and the establishment of alliances or partnerships. On the basis of these results, we have come up with a theoretical model which shows the link between each action taken and its consequences for the business’s corporate identity as perceived by the public, each action tending to influence both the reputation and the legitimacy of the firm.

Self-affirmation and external recognition

The first two actions are the sole responsibility of the creator and are linked to the way the business proclaims or declares itself from the start. Storytelling describes the genesis of the enterprise and gives it meaning. If it highlights individual experience or the personality of the creator, it will have an influence the reputation of the firm; if it highlights a social issue, like sustainable development, it will be more likely to establish its legitimacy. Analogies, on the other hand, allow the firm to explain its contribution by comparing it to other players in other sectors, close to or distant from the firm’s own activity. When the players are from the same sector, we speak of a local analogy whose aim is to build up the firm’s legitimacy. If they are from different sectors, this more distant analogy will result in a strengthening of its reputation.

The two other types of action involve a broader cross-section of collaborators. These actions need to be taken later on because they require more time to put in place and call for a more objective assessment of the firm’s competency compared with other businesses or organisations. A third-party evaluation can take multiple forms, from rankings and prizes to processes of certification or accreditation. In the first instance, the evaluation should grow its reputation, in the second, it will impact on its legitimacy. And finally, establishing partnerships, with the regular meetings that entails, leads to stronger relationships with third parties. This leads also to image enhancement through association, which fosters the firm’s reputation or justifies its membership of a group or a category and thus confers legitimacy.

Consequences to be confirmed in new research phase

The size of our sample and the short period over which the study was undertaken do not allow us to draw any general conclusions about the effects of these four actions. Nonetheless, the replication of similar results in a sample of four businesses belonging to four different sectors does make it possible to offer hypotheses that make a fresh contribution to the theory of business identity, especially in the particular instance of businesses operating an innovative business model in their sector. These hypotheses could be tested in future studies on a larger sample and at a more advanced stage in the development of the business. On a practical note, new businesses engaged in innovation could use them to find pointers on the timing and the actions to implement to construct their firm’s corporate identity.

[su_spoiler title=”Méthodologie”]The approach chosen for this qualitative study draws on the field of multiple case-by-case studies. Yuliya Shilhur selected the four most innovative businesses in terms of their business models in four different sectors, from a representative line-up of 165 firms chosen at the start. The results were obtained by studying 620 pages of documentary sources (both internal and external) supplied by the firms and 29 interviews with inside sources (founders, employees) and external ones (investors, clients). The study was published in February 2016 in the review, Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, under the title “Developing optimal distinctiveness: organizational identity processes in new ventures engaged in business model innovation.” [/su_spoiler]