A social business is often defined by its main objective: it works to tackle a social and/or environmental problem in society, through commercial activities that must be economically sustainable. The definition also includes in most cases limited and fair salaries or profits fully reinvested in the social mission of the company, as M. Yunus states it. But in his 7 principles of social business, the founder of the Grameen Bank also mentions how good working conditions are also crucial (comprising workload, management techniques, communication and integration, and so on) and sums up the last principle in only 4 words: “Do it with joy”. In an industry where employees are often working under diversified and heavy pressure which is hidden or tolerated in most cases because of the social cause or because of the motivation to “do good”, PUR Projet team practiced these two last principles during our yearly seminar, last December. Because this is also what is means to work for a social business.
In the middle of December, our whole team met in Paris for about ten intense days of business seminar. We went through several meetings and workshops, internal training, collective brainstorming sessions, sharing moments, or working groups on specific key projects… A good opportunity to improve our processes, to train the recently arrived team members on everything related to our work, and to ask any question without restriction. It was also a great moment to just spend time all together (we barely see our project developers during the rest of the year, they are spread all over the world!), learn from each other, better understand everybody’s role in the group and finally to think collectively about our common vision of the company, our objectives and our future.
After a studious week in our offices, we headed for the hills and went for a few days at the Bouchot Farm in Sologne region, to get a useful breath of fresh air. In this quiet and natural lovely place, we had more introspective workshops, some of them more connected to the nature, such as an immersion in the forest with the permaculture specialist Gildas Véret who helped us to better understand trees and the rich ecosystem they live in. We also had more esoteric moments, such as an initiation to Forest Mantras with Jean-Louis Thomas, a guitar player with a really special tuning: a moment we will never forget!Several sharing moments were led by Stéphane Riot so as to work together on the 4 key elements of an organization: the earth, representing the roots of an organization, its history, mission and values ; the fire, for the energy, the motivation and the commitment of every members ; the water, or the relations, interactions and communication between people ; and finally the air, designing our inspiration, what animates us. Throughout long and passionate debates, we worked out what we could be proud of and could celebrate in PUR Projet adventure, but also what was yet to discuss and improve, what was not always going on perfectly and for which we collectively and individually committed to solve in the short term.
And what did finally come out of it? The definition and self-appropriation of the company values took us most of the time, as each and every one shared one by one his or her visions and vibrations. Humility, altruism or caring are some of the most important values for us, but mostly non-duality appeared as an essential one: our strong desire to stay open-minded and ready to listen to anyone, without judging. But this non-duality only makes sense if it goes with a firm willpower to make a difference and really lead to change, for example by working only with clients showing a sincere and significate commitment and by avoiding potential green washing. It is not always easy to stick to this, and everyone can share his doubts on this, anytime. We also valued the importance of communication internally and externally with the worlds between which we want to build bridges: too often information goes only one way in the form of reporting for example, and we must improve the way we share success and stories with and for the farmers at the basis of any of our projects so as to create areal dialog to link and commit us all towards and for the future.
In the end, this seminar was a great opportunity to stop for a while as a team and take the time to think, and think ourselves collectively. It was a good way to value the fact of listening to everyone and to better assess our needs and resources as a group to ensure everybody’s well-being and ability to express himself or herself. A good start for 2017! All this was finally a way to bring more coherence to our mission and we encourage all companies to do the same. Because this is also what it means to work for a social business.