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Making our actions more meaningful

Corporate social responsibility

Read the post "Making our actions more meaningful" published by Philippe Petitcolin, Safran CEO, on LinkedIn.

3D loom : carbon fiber

Do we need a purpose to exist? A number of French companies were asking themselves this question, worthy of a term paper in philosophy, following the introduction of the country’s PACTE law in the spring of 2019. Along with measures designed to facilitate growth, this law encourages companies to think about their usefulness to stakeholders and also to define a “purpose” guiding their actions over the long run.

At Safran, thinking long-term is an integral part of our DNA. Our origins reach back more than a century. Over the years, we have driven progress in aerospace and defense by providing some of the most innovative and reliable products on the market. And by building on our customers’ confidence, we have carved out global leadership positions.

That’s all well and good… but it isn’t enough!

In a world focused on a quest for technological and financial performance, it has become a necessity, even an imperative, to give meaning to our activities. Not only for our own employees, but equally for our customers, suppliers, partners, investors and shareholders, and more generally for society as a whole. Defining a corporate purpose addresses this expectation.

So we plunged right in. In short, that meant asking ourselves: over and above our products, who exactly are we? What’s our mission? What does society expect of us, and what can we contribute in turn?

We obviously didn’t wait for last year’s law to become aware of our social and environmental responsibilities. Safran has long adhered to a corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy anchored in long-term commitments and strong values. But stating a core purpose harbors another benefit: to clearly and concisely express the principles behind our actions, so they can be easily understood and shared.

A few years ago, British-born American leadership author Simon Sinek, in a video that went viral, said that the most successful companies are those who have a vision and know how to share it. Furthermore, to know (and say) why we do things is both inspirational and unifying, more than just explaining how we do them. And that’s the “why” we wanted to capture.

The point wasn’t to invent a new tagline, or express wishful thinking. We didn’t want to define an idealistic purpose, but one that is realistic and concrete. One that conveys what’s already happening out there, that motivates our people around the world, day after day. And one that pushes us to always do our best.

We asked those who know us best – our employees – to define a vision that was both objective and a source of pride. Along with all of our people we formulated a purpose that would faithfully reflect our deepest convictions. And then we shared it during the Annual General Meeting of Shareholders before publishing it, as follows:

Thanks to the commitment of our employees, proven innovation and operational excellence, Safran designs, builds and supports high-tech solutions to contribute to a safer, more sustainable world, where air transport is more environmentally friendly, comfortable and accessible. We also apply our skills to develop solutions that meet strategic needs, such as defense and access to space.

As this very singular year draws to a close, when I reread these words I am more confident than ever. Despite the current crisis, I am firmly convinced that, by continuing along our chosen path and uniting around this shared vision, Safran will be able to overcome these difficulties and continue to do our job, for the greater benefit of all stakeholders.