Meet Professor Nicolas Berland, co-director of the Chair of Ethics and Governance (jointly sponsored by Total) at Paris Dauphine University in France. Here’s his account of how this position benefits both industry and academia.
“My first encounter with Total was over twenty years ago. I worked on competitor analysis and how to benchmark Total in financial and operational areas. This was a very useful insight, at an early stage in my career, of how energy companies in particular have embedded ethics in both their business practice and within their organizational culture.
Over the past six years, I’ve been co-director (with Olivier Charpateau) of the Chair in Ethics and Governance, which is now jointly sponsored by Total and Bolloré. In particular, my remit is to look at economic and intelligence strategies in large organizations like Total, with respect to corporate governance and ethics. We have a steering committee which meets 3 times a year to define our agenda and our plans and I see us as partners in a mutually beneficial network.
My remit is to create and share knowledge, applying our insight at Paris Dauphine to the specific challenges and issues faced by a company like Total. Based on this real-work insight, we produce material which is incorporated into students’ courses, such as case studies.
Examples of issues we have worked on include intercultural aspects of ethics programs, ethical values, board directors and ethics, religious values and management. In addition, we hold regular conferences and seminars, dealing with topics such as whistleblowing, business ethics, culture and practices, soft law, etc.
We have Masters and PhD students studying ethics within companies who will use Total for primary research. Getting to work on real issues and within the constraints or specific culture of a business is hugely beneficial for them. For example, instead of just lecturing about why building a reputation index is important for a company, we bring in industry leaders who have actually done it and can explain exactly how it has positively impacted their business. So students can develop competencies based on professional testimony.
From Total’s point of view, this exchange all contributes to the development of good practice internally. We produce conferences and develop workshops on specific topics of interest, and invite industry partners to share their knowledge and discuss best practice, in a private space. This means that knowledge and shared learning is published widely, offering useful insight into how companies manage issues and challenges. We bring the academics and leading thinkers together with the people considering the same topics ‘on the ground’, and this is extremely useful for both sides.
Energy companies have more exposure than many to the challenge around issues like bribery, environmental management and political unrest. So they are especially engaged with these issues. Looking ahead, we hope to embed our teams even more within the company and contribute to their thinking and practices around ethics and governance.”