Intrapreneurship4good, innovation with a positive impact!

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. The only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Campagne publicitaire d’Apple, 1997 ‘Think Different’

Intrapreneurship4good: a new way of approaching entrepreneurship in companies that will draw its impetus from the deep motivations of employees to develop innovative projects in a more sustainable and responsible way.

This “good vibe” appeals to companies who see the opportunity to involve their teams in building the world of tomorrow, inspired by current environmental and societal issues.

Who is behind this movement? Who are the intrapreneur4good? What are the opportunities and advantages for companies? All you need to know about this trend that has everything to last.

Intrapreneurship4good, a trendy concept

The current situation is favorable to innovation, and 2020 is a pivotal year. Crises, which are both risks and opportunities, are catalysts of “creative destruction” [1] for companies and vehicles of opportunity, at least for those who can overcome the constraints of the short term. Crises are also opportunities for consumers to review their consumption patterns and question their values. In this sense, the economic, social and health crisis caused by Covid-19 is no exception. Although it is too early to analyze its effects on society, the consequences of the crisis will certainly be profound and it will have disrupted the way people work, transformed certain economic models and changed some consumer habits. According to a recent survey by BVA, 48% of business executives say that this crisis has a positive impact on the development of innovation projects [2]. For many, the year 2020 marks the end of an era, and the profit maximization model is coming to an end. In 2022 more than ever, don’t cut back on your innovation efforts, take the opportunity to move forward and accelerate.

The last decade has seen CSR come to the fore

Since the late 1980s, when our planet was already on fire and we were looking the other way [3], a number of start-ups have entered the pioneering ‘green’ market. United since 2018 under the famous ‘Tech for Good’ umbrella, they seemed to have captured the concept, despite the emergence of various CSR labels (B-Corp in 2006, for example). What place is there for big business in creating the world of tomorrow? On 23 May 2019, the PACTE law in France established a new CSR framework for the business world and encouraged companies to question their very purpose. Economy and sustainability do not seem to be so irreconcilable. Solutions to the UN’s sustainable development goals are worth €11 trillion a year and will create 380 million jobs by 2030, according to the Commission on Business and Sustainable Development. Thus, as Benjamin Tincq [4], founder and CEO of Good Tech Lab, predicts, “companies that are part of the solution will capture the markets of the future.”

Now is the time for intrapreneurs4good

This concept brings together CSR and the need for innovation by large companies. While intrapreneurship emerged in the early 1980s, and is a term used to describe those who turn an idea into a profitable activity within an organization [5], we use the term ‘intrapreneur4good’ to describe intrapreneurship with a social and/or environmental impact. The concept encompasses the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are the targets to be achieved by 2030 in terms of sustainability. “4good” may therefore imply different aspects, but it resonates with the goals of eradicating poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring prosperity for all, otherwise known as the “5Ps”: people, prosperity, planet, peace, partnerships. The notion of intrapreneurship4good responds to several expectations: society, workers who are looking for meaning, and companies for whom creating new businesses incorporating social responsibility objectives becomes vital.

The concept is becoming a real trend partially thanks to a hashtag. The term was coined by BNP Paribas’ intrapreneurship program, People’s Lab4Good, and its 2017 campaign, stamped with the hashtag #intrapreneur4good. Sharing best practices on Twitter, creating a podcast channel featuring intrapreneur profiles, the trend later saw the creation of an unprecedented coalition: Engie, Danone, and BNP Paribas brought their intrapreneurs together to create a real network of values, boosting positive impact intrapreneurship.

Expert Point of view

Valérie Gaudart

We met with Valérie Gaudart, Head of Culture and Community at Engie to get her perspective on intrapreneurship4good, and the coalition between Engie, Danone and BNP Paribas on this subject.

How does Engie relate to intrapreneurship4good?
Engie’s internal and external communities are a powerful booster of connections, ideas and business for good. In 2018, we created the Engie People Labs to bring these communities together. Operating as an ecosystem and a space for discussion, the People Labs bring together creators and enthusiasts several times a year, all from the Group’s internal and external communities (employees, partners, influencers, experts, etc.). We have also created the Engie Good Galaxy platform, which consolidates and promotes everything that is being done in the field of social innovation within the Group, and which disseminates and propagates an intrapreneurial culture for good. In line with the 17 SDGs, the objective is to use the collective intelligence of Engie’s ecosystems to provide innovative responses to the societal revolutions of the 21st century.

Explain to us how BNP Paribas, Danone and Engie have joined forces to work on Intrapreneurship4good.
This is an unprecedented three-company coalition around intrapreneurship. We realized that we shared the same worldview and values within these three groups. We got together with Sandrine Delage (BNP Paribas) and Alexia Penent D’Izarn (Danone) and, as three intrapreneurs, we came up with this alliance project. On July 3, 2019, for the first time, intrapreneurs from BNP Paribas, Danone and Engie came together for a co-development day. Since then, several months of various joint trainings have been conducted. By combining our resources, we can move faster. It should also be noted that our activities may ultimately be mutually complementary in some cases. BNP Paribas can finance a project, Engie can bring it to life, and Danone can provide product solutions.

2020 has been a very special year. How do you see the future?
Many of the jobs of tomorrow have not yet been invented, and it is up to us to ensure that we build the world of tomorrow that we want. Technological and societal. Let’s listen, let’s invent, let’s share together. Let’s all be actors of the positive impact, that’s our reason for being, and let’s strive to turn the crisis into opportunities. At Engie, this vision and the focus on intrapreneurship4good resonates with the Group’s company name. It is then natural that we work to create useful links, both internally and externally, and to boost engagement within companies.

What is an intrapreneur4good?

“Like the giraffe, the intrapreneur4good has his feet on the ground and his head in the clouds. His vision allows him to see opportunities coming and to seize them on the fly, while keeping a pragmatic approach firmly anchored in the knowledge of the company. Its beaver-like personality allows it, based on its environment, to build new models and develop new channels for creating social value for the ecosystem around it” [6]. The intrapreneur4good carries the company’s social vision. The challenge is to create a bridge between the quest for a return on investment for the company and the social mission of its project.

At the origin of the intrapreneur4good, there is often the company that provides the impetus by integrating the sustainability issue into its intrapreneurship program or by developing one around it. For instance, VINCI’s Environment Awards covers the issue of sustainable development and makes it one of the main objectives. [7]

The intrapreneur4good drives change by example

According to Edgar Schein’s model of organizational culture [8], corporate changes are first based on moral and philosophical assumptions that are then made operational in a set of values and attitudes. In other words, the transformation of the belief system, values, and attitudes of employees is what drives new methods of doing things. This requires communication campaigns, meetings, training, etc. In contrast to this model, intrapreneurs4good pave the way, become examples and in this sense inspire action and can ultimately transform the values, attitudes, and beliefs of the company. This is John Shook’s model: “Start by changing how people behave, what they do”.

A ‘4good’ intrapreneurial project under the microscope

Jérôme de Tomasi

Jérôme de Tomasi, intrapreneur and founder of Waste Marketplace, was kind enough to answer our questions to present us Waste Marketplace and give us his feedback on his intrapreneurial experience.

What is your background and why intrapreneurship?

I have a fairly classic career path, mostly in large groups, with a predominantly financial background. After working for Bouygues, within an SME, then for SUEZ, and finally VINCI, I have become the founder and CEO of Waste Marketplace. I know the work in the field as well as in the office, and I must say that I have an appetite for adventure and for getting out of my comfort zone. Through my experiences, I realized that there was room for improvement in the waste sector, and that the different actors sometimes did not understand each other well. The idea for Waste Marketplace began to take shape while I was working at SUEZ. When I came to VINCI and saw the other side, i.e. how buyers tendered for waste from their work sites, I thought that we could improve the processes by tackling the problem differently.

Waste Marketplace, in a nutshell?

Waste Marketplace simplifies and optimizes waste management and recovery. You can order your dumpster removal with a 4-click digital tool and Waste Marketplace will search the market to find the best solution for you. This service provider will remove a specific dumpster, etc. You are not bound to a particular waste operator, but to a general waste contractor. It is a single solution, where there is only one contact person for the customer but many providers behind the solution.

What were the triggers for you to embark on this project?

I am convinced that there are millions of people in the world who have ideas but are reluctant to start. What triggers the big leap? For me, the launch of the Leonard intrapreneurship program at VINCI was crucial. There is a double benefit of starting with this type of program. On the one hand, the incredible security context it provides, since in most cases there is a return-to-work clause. On the other hand, you already have your first client, who is your employer. The programs ease the reluctance of some to jump in without a safety net.

Beyond being a springboard, how did the VINCI’s intrapreneurship program help you in the development of the project?

The program did not actually train me in intrapreneurship. I would rather call it coaching. The method is powerful. It is about dealing with the trio: Problem – Solution – Customer, and it is the method by which it is solved. Also, apart from a framework and a method, the program promotes collaboration. You must not be afraid to communicate, to challenge your idea, to constantly rework it according to feedback. The importance of feedback is greatly underestimated. So I would say that the intrapreneurship program increases the capacity to ask questions, and synthesize answers tenfold. In my example, there are many topics that I have brought out of the boundaries, thanks to the questions.

What is the typical profile to become an intrapreneur?

I don’t think there is an intrapreneur profile, but there are certain prerequisites, especially in terms of soft skills. On the one hand, there is a need for great humility. We start from scratch. I was managing a team of 50 people, I was recognized for my skills, and from the first day to the next I was left alone and coached by someone half my age who taught me the method. On the other hand, you need a certain appetite for discomfort or at least for adventure and the unknown. The desire to learn is as fundamental, as is involvement. You have to be able to get fully involved.

Where is Waste Marketplace today?

And what are the challenges for 2021? This year, we managed to double the turnover, as planned. Next year, we expect to do the same. We have grown from 4 to 12 employees. In fact, we have recruited mainly sales people, but our talents all have one thing in common: none of them come from the waste sector. I think they would already have an approach that would have been passed on to them by their former employer, and would find it more difficult to approach the topic from a very different point of view. Of course, they sometimes make mistakes, but they ask many more questions than those who think they already know. In addition, we have rapidly expanded nationally. We are based in Lyon, but our sites are all over France.

Any advice for people still hesitating?

An idea is never ridiculous, don’t be afraid. There is nothing to lose by bringing up an idea and defending it during an incubation. An idea may seem crazy today but may be perfect in 10 years’ time. There is also a question of timing. However, at some point, a choice will have to be made. At some point, part-time work no longer works. For my part, when I got back on the accelerator after the incubation period, I told my superiors that I would not be coming back. It’s a breathtaking, mind-blowing, rejuvenating experience. When you have experienced this, the job you had before, despite all its advantages, seems very dull. When I think about it, I actually saved myself by saying I wouldn’t come back, because I know I couldn’t have come back, not like before. The experience was too strong to turn back.

Intrapreneurship4good, a golden opportunity for companies 

More than 60% of CEOs admit that there is a significant gap between what their company says and what it does on CSR [9]. The latter tends to recede behind the business. Yet, are CSR and ROI enemies? What if intrapreneurship4good was one of the keys?

What are the action drivers for CSR departments in large companies? On the one hand, the company can strive to reduce its negative externalities in its interactions with all its stakeholders. On the other hand, it can be more proactive in sponsoring skills, technology, or financing. Finally, the company can also seek to innovate by looking for new business models that can simultaneously create social and economic value. Intrapreneurship4good is part of this third approach. At Yumana, we are used to saying that a committed company is a company that empowers its employees to be committed. Intrapreneurship4good seems to be a ready-made path to achieve this.

Employing an intrapreneuriat4good approach has many benefits.

Sustainable intrapreneurship is a vehicle of economic growth. In fact, it is a differentiating asset for winning markets, and a definite competitive advantage, as it is increasingly expected by customers. According to Jean-François Connan, Director of Social Responsibility and Innovation of the Adecco Group, “Adecco could never have been selected by operators such as Pôle Emploi without Adecco Insertion”. It is also a common statement that if employees feel engaged in their work, it improves their performance and, consequently, the company’s overall results. Furthermore, let us look at the Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP) marketing concept. “The idea is to sell products normally reserved for wealthy consumers to poor people, who are considered a new market segment” [10]. It is about making certain products or services accessible to the “bottom of the pyramid” by adapting them. The proponents of BoP and intrapreneurship4good share a similar vision: “economic impact and social added value are not incompatible and business can be a powerful driver of social impact.” [11]

Intrapreneurship4good to promote the employer brand

Indeed, the approach allows retaining, developing and attracting talent within the company. At a time when employee engagement is becoming an increasingly fundamental HR issue and when talents say they prefer a company whose mission is in line with their values, intrapreneurship4good offers companies the opportunity to boost their employer brand. According to a study conducted by EDHEC in 2019, future graduates consider respect for the principles of sustainable development and CSR to be essential, and 46% of them say that they could not work in a company that did not respect these principles. At Accenture, for example, many employees apply to work in Accenture Development Partnerships (ADP), which offers consultancy solutions to NGOs at cost. “It is a tool to attract and retain the best people within Accenture.” [12]

Having the right to test and fail

Developing intrapreneurship4good programs increases the capacity of companies to think ‘outside the box’ and approach problems in a new social way [13]. Such a program becomes “a laboratory for social innovation”[14].In fact, the social intrapreneur takes the company to a field that is sometimes slightly different from its own and thus creates a space for experimentation where it can test new business models, develop new expertise, and gain leadership on such issues as inclusion, combating poverty, etc.

Like CSR policies, intrapreneurship4good can build a good reputation, provided that the program is properly promoted. Adecco, by making temporary work a possible stage in the integration process, has helped to change the view of integration structures, but also of public employment professionals on the company. According to Warren Buffet, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it.” Based on the evidence, it can already quickly evolve and strengthen with the creation of an intrapreneurship4good program.

Intrapreneurship4good has the power to transform the DNA of the company

Intrapreneurship4good offers not only external benefits in terms of business or employer brand, but also more internal benefits, notably in terms of transforming the corporate culture. Changing working styles, changing working methods, changing mindsets of employees, changing beliefs… Intrapreneurship programs aim at Change, at transforming the company.

Intrapreneurship, more than just a tool

Coupled with the concept of impact, intrapreneurship becomes more than just a tool for internal transformation but a weapon in pursuit of the company’s vision. Intrapreneurship4good programs should not be seen as just another CSR policy, but as a promoter of CSR practices within the company. Should this replace other CSR schemes? No. However, there is a risk that companies will treat intrapreneurship4good as a puppet to be played with and applauded by the audience, but not allow it to transform, inspire and influence their organizations and business models. This means that intrapreneurship4good should not be seen as an objective in itself, but as a transitional phase, a tool for the transformation of companies and society. In the long term, the aim is that we no longer talk about intrapreneurship4good, but that all projects developed within the company should involve a “4good” aspect.

To avoid possible disappointment from the intrapreneur4good if the project is not selected to continue with the intrapreneurship program, the right balance must be found between the project’s objectives and the means used to achieve them. The aim of an intrapreneur4good is to have a positive impact, but for the project to be viable, it has to be carried out within the rules of the business game (return on investment in particular). In the case of intrapreneurship4good, the ends finally justify the means.

The result of an internal entrepreneurial approach that reconciles the search for a strong social impact with a balanced business model, intrapreneurship4good provides new responses to societal challenges. It is a powerful tool for large companies to engage with civil society, start-ups, and public authorities in the search for solutions to build a more positive and sustainable world of tomorrow. Reconciling sustainability and business. At Yumana we are convinced that intrapreneurship4good contributes to shaping the company of the future.

[1] Concept économique associé à l’économiste et professeur Joseph Schumpeter (1883-1950), détaillé dans son ouvrage Capitalisme, Socialisme et Démographie, 1942
[2] Sondage BVA, Innovation Factory et Fast-up Partners, 2020
[3] Discours de J.Chirac, 2003
[5] 2008, Advancia
[6] P. Hartigan, J. Elkington, in Intrapreneuriat Social, la nouvelle frontière de l’innovation sociale pour l’entreprise
[8] Professeur émérite au MIT, Organizational culture and leadership, 1985
[11] ibid
[13] Op.Cit.
[14] Ibid.