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Rapport sur les relations industrielles en France et l'environnement (pour la commission européenne)

(servit de base à une conférence prononcée en 1991 à Dublin)

Rapport sur les relations industrielles en France et l'environnement (pour la commission européenne)


16 RUE MOREAU, 75012 PARIS. TEL/: (1) 43 43 45 75.
FAX : (1) 49 28 04 78


November 1991.


This final version of the “Environment/Industrial relations” report is composed as follows :

Part I relates to the institutional and legal framework : the reader will find here some basic informations about french structures in the field of environment and industrial relations. Many of the conclusions I proposed in the first provisional National Report are resumed here, because not much changed since then, except a very recent (and superficial) move in the legislation.

In Part II, I have summarized the main results of a survey I carried out in France in 1991, on the attitudes of French Industrialists about Environment as a general concern as well as a ‘industrial relation issue’. I assume that this second part will contain some ‘insights’ about the french ‘cultural handling’ of the problem.

Part III is dedicated to he positions adopted by the trade unions. Recent positions have been explored through some interviews and documentation, notably in the two big unions in France, the CGT (Confédération Générale du Travail) and the CFDT (Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail).

As the Environment is still nearly non existent as a stricto sensu ‘industrial relation’ issue (i.e. : matter for bargaining), the reader will not be surprised not to find any specific chapter on it, though a brief story of its appearance in the legal framework is to be found in Part I. As there was no spontaneous hint at this problem by the 45 industrialists I met, the question barely appears in the second part of the report. It is only emerging as a wish (and not as a formal demand) in the unions discourses (except in the most recent period), and even then, it is still discussed as a legal and regulatory ‘piece’ to be adapted on a fairly rich “working conditions” and “participation” laws apparatus. More specific documentation on this aspect might be called on to a specialist in jurisprudenece and regulations.

In the Appendix, the reader will find four items : A bibliography; a list of names and addresses (institutions and personnal contacts); a global “dash-board” which summarizes our main results, using (when it is possible !) the E.Hildebrandt’s categories in order to facilitate comparisons with the other National Reports; and at last, a list of abbreviations.

I would conclude this foreword with two personal remarks about the process of the comparative survey :
-firstly, I think that National reports should be first written in native languages, the translation being taken in charge afterwards by the European team. This would avoid costly and approximative efforts by the rapporteurs, and would also help the sharing of informations and first results by actors in the concerned country, at each step of the procedure (which would be “more democratic”, as said one of the trade-union representatives I interviewed).

-secondly, efforts should be made by every member of the research teams to reach a certain level of objectivity, without attempting to present one’s own country as “the best example”, even when the formal and legal procedures seeem to be much more advanced here than there. We all know very well that real practices can differ widely from the ideal frameworks, and that, in any case, cultural differences have to be respected. Such a temperateness is a necessity if we want to feel free to analyse and display the real situation in our own country without any “diplomatic constraint”, and if we aspire to feel a stronger solidarity about our “environmental good cause” .

In other words, if understanding the different cultural contexts is fascinating, I am very dubious about the capacity of a single grid to catch the meaning of the differences between our countries. If the purpose is to “affix a blame” to the backward countries, and to give a (chocolate ?) medal to the virtuous ones, I don’t think it‘s worth the trouble. If I take here the risk of a “deep” sociological criticism, it is, of course, because I hope that nobody would take advantage of it , in a childish project of “national infatuation”.

Thus, I would feel inclined to ask the author of the final report to use a very “soft” grid, when attempting to summarize structures and tendencies. Otherwise the “urge for a strong environmental policy” would drive us to some substantial... euro-misunderstanding.

Denis Duclos.


The general context of the Environment as a public concern in France must be reminded.

It has been somehow “stamped” by a chronic contradiction : on one hand, the public concern is obviously ever more broadly shared, and more people seem ready to accept the Greens as a political alternative to the traditional Right-Left structure; but, on the other hand, there is neither any massive envolvment in environmental activism nor any popular support to specific campaigns on issues like waste recycling, water depollution, reduction of car infestation, etc. No precise criticism of industry and technology is emerging on the public stage. We are still experiencing a context of diffuse environmental concern and diffuse sympathy towards vague pro-environment ideas. As far as the industrial sites problems appear to be kept under good technical controls (which is mostly the case, except some growing rumors about the bad quality of drinking waters in a number of places), there is no popular impulse for “harnessing” modernity. The last period having been filled up with managerial ideology rather than with pro-State views, the conservative positions of the French Business world have not known much criticism. Strangely enough, the very recent legal changes which open the door to new rights for the workers in the field of environment have been pushed forward “from the very top” (i.e. : Brice Lalonde’s Cabinet ) , without any strong will among the workers’ unions or environmental movements. The industrial part was more or less taken by surprise, and did not show much enthousiasm for building up a lobby against it.

We must remember that this tendency is embedded in a french traditional ‘cultural lag’, according to which, the societal problems are much more to be solved by regulatory and technical means than by the public debate; and the unions, even when they strongly oppose bureaucratic solutions, are still tied up with this cultural pattern.

-Industry and Environment : a “soft conflict” context.
During the mid-seventies, the environmentalist movement emerged in France as a militant reality. As a part of the more general contest of the “Rightist power”, this multifaced movement mobilized very different types of activists. It was a period of active networking which favoured cross-fertilizations among various small but very busy groups. Some "crossing" thus appeared between union and environmental cultures (Antunes, 1978, Dumont 1974, 1975, 1978, Duclos and alii, 1985). For instance, a "Syndicat du Cadre de Vie" was created (Pelisson, 1977), attempting to translate environmental demands into the semantics of a workers'union. But in general, it was more an theoretical problem for Ecologist intellectuals (Conti 1978), than a practical topic. Despite this diverse attempts, one can assume that environmental movements in France have conducted very few actions addressed to working class and unions. Beside the important exception of nuclear energy protest ( Daniel 1987), there were no real attempt to capture attention and support from union activists, even in local contests.Of course, one can find several cases where relationships between environmentalist groups and unions have been exemplary (Guérin-Henni, 1981), but broadly speaking, the French Ecologists did not focused frequently on specific industrial branches or sites. Since the "couloir de la chimie" (chemical corridor) near Lyon has been a continuous case for scandalous pollutions of the Rhône, no important contest has occured, but very recently. On the contrary, Ecologists have conducted struggles for saving wilderness areas, not so much threaten by industrial activities than by rural and urban planning (like the river Loire). This historical background must be kept in mind if we want to understand why subsequent developments will still be marked with a sort of an “apathetic” syndrom : as if, despite good intentions, workers and environmentalists definitely belonged to separate worlds, quite indifferent to each other.

Public opinion facing industrial impacts on environment : an increasing concern... still without any precise claims.

As the Environment became in the eighties a crucial concern for the French public at large (which is attested by a convergent set of polls and different types of quantitative surveys ), the political output was maintained for a long time as a vague and long term perspective. Although the credibility of the French "Greens" has been continuously enhanced, reaching in recent months 13 to 15 % of votes expectations (1991), the general public still does not seem to consider them as “real” political parties. If a ever larger number announce their intention to favour the Greens in elections, it is more in order to express their disappointment towards classical parties, rather than for supporting an alternative program, which is obscure and unknown . This impression is strenghtened by the unshaken position of some of their most prominent leaders who declare they are not subject to classical criteria of "right " or "left" wings.

Nevertheless, the impressive results of the Polls have prompted the other political parties to develop different strategies towards the Greens : one of those being the attempt of merging the image of the Greens with the profile of extreme-rightists (Le Pen), on the basis of some “virtual” analogies and value-sharing: a touch of rural conservatism, a preference for local and provincial political activity, rather than intellectual , “parisian” and “cosmopolitic” centralism, etc..Though the polls show that the Le penists have very aggressive views on Ecologists, and, reversedly, despite the fact the Environmentalists share more values with the Left Wing (social equity, anti-racism, etc.) , it is still difficult to make it clear what would be an “ environmentalist industrial policy”. A certain emptiness in the socio-economic dimensions of "Green" programs aggravates this difficulty of enlightening and precising the public image of the Environmentalists in France, more especially as some of them are supporting (or at least, are not hostile to) technical solutions like the High speed Train (TGV) in Provence (like R.Dumont, or P.Samuel).

Meanwhile, the political potential of the environment appears to be more and more significant and the industrialists are very aware of it, wondering how possible would be a "raz-de-marée" which would drive the French Environmentalists even further than their German counterparts.. as soon as they would find the "key-concept" for beeing accepted as fully responsible policy makers. A few Business Journals are just taking now some consciousness of the Environmentalists proneness to economic radical and global solutions as taxes on polluting activities, or working time sharing. At the same time, the trade unions, still anchored in the official leftist culture, don’t want to support the Greens, without daring to become too aggressive against them. Thus, they stay congealed in a ‘double bind’ structure : if they accept to support environmental concerns, they may help the Greens (which they are inclined to think of as political strangers), but if they don’t support it, they restrain themselves from acquiring a broader legitimacy (of which they lack dramatically).

The “Authoritarian and technocratic temptation”.

As a specialist of Law noticed it : the Environment is still (in France as in Europe) a matter of negative and repressive action, and it does not activate a ‘positive principle of the Law’ (Lascoumes 1985). For example, the Code Dalloz on the environment regulations regroups 198 texts which edict penalties. But, because such a positive environmental law does not exist, those regulations are mostly dependant from other more unified principles. Thus, environmental regulations in France become subsidiary or secondary matters, depending from other frameworks such as “acceptable pollution thresholds”, “internal plant regulations” , or other technical disciplinary procedures which are defined previously and by other bodies. Among the 198 legal texts quoted, 161 don’t qualify the “infraction” by itself, but refer to other codes and other laws. Therefore, despite the formal existence, for long, of a consistent body of laws (Lois de juillet 1976 sur la protection de la Nature, les installations classées pour la protection de l’environnement, et de la protection de la mer, etc..), there are in fact, several “environments” , related to different levels of sanctions, different types of agents, etc..

Notwithstanding its obvious contradiction with the ‘State induced’ homogeneity of Laws, this tendency facilitates the “non judicial” treatment of environmental infractions. That is to say that decentralized administrations play the role of “technical judges”, without sharing any basic principles.

To understand how it can work on continuously, we must recall here the ‘double’ nature of the french State. As many sociologists or politologists admit it, France is still a "State society" (Ewald, 1986), which does not mean only that the State has a central place in economic (Baier, 1988) or social regulations, but that the State embodies the French way of conducting a civilizing process. French people seem to socialize themselves through State identity, which means that their own diversity is reflected by the functional diversity of the state apparatus. Thus the central power figure and the decentralized technical administrations are both sides of the same token. Be the Environment defined as one Right depending from only one global Law, it would probably become contradictory with the many middle range fonctions of control and sanction. It would also quickly unbalance the sharing of responsabilities among various technical and judicial bodies, and give the main power to attorneys at Law, which is not consistent with the national tradition.

This interpretation is undoubltly a very precarious and historically relative statement, but when coming to environmental issues, it fits with other features : thus, many former environmentalists have already been absorbed in State functions, at local , regional, as well as at national levels. The growth and multiplication of environmental administrations that we can observe today, are going in the same direction. Environmental financial agencies regulating Air pollution, water pollution, waste recycling processes, Forestry, National Parks, Environmental inspectorates (already held by DRIRE, DIREN, DRAE, or so many other administrations) as well as new environmental polices and expert centres, will be operated by a more and more specialized (both centralized and decentralized) technical bureaucracies. Very few steps are made to give more responsabilities to citizen or public interests groups , even though one aknowledges the important role that some of them have played in legal pursuits of polluters, or in struggling for a more human rural and urban planning. In turn, private entrepreneurs complain that the State usually considers them as potential polluters even if they have always operated safely and respectfully for the environment. They claim new relationships based on confidence and self-promoted initiatives (De la Royère, 1989), and they assume they are most frequently capable of negociating without any State mediation with other people, and namely, with environmental activists. Some of the compagnies have systematically developped interactive policies with external actors, and don't appreciate State involvments coming too late, in clumsy ways, and having frequent backlash effects, discouraging industrial actors trying to turn, by their own, to a more ecological identity.

Those complains are not always fully justified : for a number of years now, the State has also emphasized incitative actions at all levels. Many "rewards", "prizes" and other concourses have been organized, publicizing "environmental" behaviours among industrialists. The ministry of environnment publishes regularly lists of "virtuous enterprises", displaying in full technical details their "clean" processes, and assessing losses and wins associated with new technologies (Ministère de l'Environnement, 1984, 1988).

Reversedly, the fact that the main Workers Unions are still very "State-minded" in France (and this, in a ever more stubborn style, probably due to side-effects of the ongoing crisis of their membership) can have contradictory impacts on this tendency: on one hand, they care for public solidarity and their members are still present in deliberatory instances which intervene on environmental issues. But on the other hand, they are not ready to accept a more generalized interaction among social actors, which would not be systematically mediated by the State (Reynaud, 1989). In that sense, the Unions don't act in France to challenge Business claims to negociate with others citizens, and don't back up very much the few environmentalist groups who try to act in that way. It is perhaps only among some farmers' movements (as the ‘Confédération Paysanne’ (Alphandery, Bitoun, Dupont, 1990)) that the corporative side and the environmentalist side are beeing articulated: for example, in claiming the reversal of rural desertification, and the promotion of new protective functions for the Agriculture. But such new mediating social actors are still very far from acquiring any significative role either with the Industrialists, or with the Workers unions.

This context must be reminded when coming to our point -Environment as an industrial relation topic- because it explains, at least partly, the strange feeling of “artificiality”, this taste of “non existent problem”, which would probably surprise any person analysing the state of the question in France from an external point of view.



Health and safety issues on one hand, environmental problems on the other, have been regulated separately in France for a long period of time, but have always been submitted to the same predominant logic of technical management by the State. The first coherent set of rules controlling industrial hazards ("installations dangereuses") was formed under Napoleon's administration (1810), the aim of which was to isolate dangerous sites from populated areas. Progressively, the charge of inspecting those factories was attributed to more technical bodies, and in 1963, after the Feysin accident (explosion and fire in a large refinery near Lyon), it was permanently given to the "Services des Mines" (Mining Engineers) who have kept the job up to today. Another legacy from the 19th century is the Departemental Health council (Conseil départemental d’Hygiène, CDH) which helps the Prefet to take decisions in matters which are ever more connected to environmental issues. This institution will be called (under a new name) to improve the participation of both environmental local movements, and Unions.

Health and safety questions have been raised since 150 years in France, mobilizing a number of advisors and reformers (Cottereau et alii, 1983, Duclos, 1984). At the beginning of the century, it was definitely treated in terms of compensation policies (Defert et alii, 1977). After the World War II, occupational injuries and illnesses were included in the national Social Security system, coming under the control of medical and technical public experts (Ewald 1986, Blassel, 1981). Yearly statistics on occupational health are established by the "Caisse Nationale Maladie des travailleurs salariés" (CNAMTS), of which figures are used in assessing levels of Social Security contributions by each plant management. On national and regional levels, CTN and CTR (Comités techniques nationaux, et régionaux) allow Industrialists and trade unions representatives to meet about the prevention of occupational hazards, and to debate about the best technical solutions. On the site level, Unions are participating in the control of occupational hazards through the "Comité d'Hygiène, de Sécurité et des conditions de travail" ( CHSCT), but don't really deal with environmental issues, except when giving advices on problems which are, at the same time, to be put as occupational health or safety problems. Until the end of 1991, there was still no legal basis in France to allow the workers representatives to give advice on environmental issues, but a law is in the process, following the instructions of the Plan National de l’Environnement, which was just passed in last June. Thus far (and still now) the Unions rarely interact with industrialists on direct and explicit environmental topics, whether at the national or at the local and plant levels. When they intervene about such issues, it is within the framework of public institutions where the technical aspect is always predominant, and directly handled by engineers in official positions.

In contrast with the German situation, it can be assumed that environmental issues have practically not pervaded the structures of industrial relations in France. Although recognized as a reality by both managers and unions, the strong correlation between harmful effects on environment and occupational risks has not -up till now- been selected as a relevant object for negociation between those industrial actors, except in the context of specialized segments of the State apparatus, like the Conseil Supérieur de la Prévention des risques professionnels (CSPRP), the Collège pour la Prévention des Risques technologiques” (CPRT), or the Haut comité de l’Environnement (HCE). At least, one can notice that the same dangerous substances are sometimes classified simultaneously in both fields of industrial safety and environmental protection. Attempts to compare and adjust threshold values for exposure inside and outside a plant have not been achieved till now, and compilations of measurments are not subject to systematic comparisons between inner and outer environments.

Because public demands on the industrial actors about environment are always mediated by the powerful structures of administrative expertise, and also because it doesn't frequently address unions and managers at the same time, it is not capable to put much pressure on industry. Therefore, the demanders are not in a position to oblige industry to comply with more respectful technologies for Man and Nature. This difficulty to use a societal consensus on environment as a lever for re-orientate industrial activities in France does not mean that nothing has changed. As usual in our country, the State mechanisms react very sensitively to any variation of the public opinion and begin to solve the problem, as far as the administrators feel they can keep control over the whole process, and turn it to a technical procedure .

Basic national structures and laws , before 1991.

-State level.

The French legal framework on both subjects (environment and occupational safety) can be considered as very elaborate and sophisticated, piled up on frequent renewals of details. Huge Codes and regulations compilation -books can be consulted (Dalloz on environment, Pluyette on occupational risks, etc.). But it is also characterized by a tendency to escape some crucial or controversial problems, and by a difficulty to deal with relatively complex questions, like thresholds for exposure to hazardous substances, etc..

The legal framework was mostly enriched during the sixties and the seventies, responding to the most active period of the environmental movement , before its politization.
For instance, we can remind of the following main laws :
-Air protection law (2 Aout 1961).
-Water protection law (loi du 16 décembre 1964, and Code rural a.434-1).
-Ground protection law (16 Décembre 1964, related to the destruction of waste, and recycling of metals.)
-Sea Protection Law (7 juillet 1976, and 11 mai 1977).
-Nature Protection Law ( 16 Juillet 1976).
-Classified settlements and environmental protection law (19 Juillet 1976.)
-Law on toxical waste management (1982).
-Loi du 22 Juillet 1987, relative à la prévention de risques d’accidents majeurs”. (a special college on “prevention of technological risks” (CPRT) was created).

Such a “battery” (which knew many further complementations) has certainly carried along many concrete impacts on the day -to-day management of industrial sites. But, let us notice, for example, that the law on “classified settlements” (a way of saying : hazardous plants”) was never considered as a “real law” by the Mining Engineers in charge of its application, because it did not recognize with enough details their own function.

We can also assume that the obvious effort made in 1976 to coordinate several concepts of environmental protection was not achieved, leaving the judges in front a diversity of rights : in some cases, the “local life conditions” take place of the environmental values, defined otherwise as the “nature” in general, or, a betterment of cleanliness (for an industrial site), a right of property and occupation, a power to decide, etc... Depending on the dominant metaphor used in this or that law, the right to dispose of “public facilities” may drive to a degradation of the natural environment, which is simply not conceived, unless another body of law could be enacted, in contradiction with the first one.

In the eighties, the French legal apparatus did not change much, but was unconfortably challenged by European instructions which are often considered as redundant as well by administrators as by industrialists. For instance, "Seveso" instructions (on assessing hazards on the site) and recent regulations (on public "right to know") have been implemented with some criticism, managers arguing it was "more papers" for things that were already done, according to the French law.

Thus in several cases, the Law appears to be at the same time too detailed and inaccurate. Subsequently , the role of regulation tends to be very important, with a split between uninforced laws, and implementation without full legislative prescriptions. It is the realm of administrative autonomy and power, where the only efficient criteria tends to be the technical ones.

There are some significant clues to the resisting behaviour of the socialist administration, before the public pressure appeared through the polls in the late eighties : thus, a “circulaire” regulating the industrial waste disposal (22 Juillet 1983) hinted at a possible consultation of CSHCT. But, as the CGT secretary L. Brovelli wrote it down in a letter to the Directeur de l’Eau, de la Prévention des pollutions et des risques, at the French Ministry of Environment : if not “considered as a general obligation”, such a consultation would be inefficient. L.Brovelli, then, asked for a modification of the Loi du 19 Juillet 1976, which would set up a mandatory consultation of CHSCT and CE (comités d’entreprise), about every activity of the plant, being susceptible to have impacts on the environment. The answer of the civil servant in charge of the problem was this: he just called for “experimental actions” and rejected a “ex-abrupto inscription of obligations which would risk to happen badly adaptated to a diversity of situations”.

Confirming this “soft approach” , when adopting the “Loi du 22 Juillet 1987, relative à la prévention de risques d’accidents majeurs”, the French Parliament rejected an amendment proposing the mandatory consultation of CHSCT about the preventive measures to be taken by the employees.

Nevertheless, going (consciously or not) along the “technical” path, Unions did not react with much aggressivity to this “social” restraint. They generally called for a scrupulous respect for regulations, which laid off their own effort to clear up and solve safety and environment problems. Besides, they favoured all types of public supervision, leading to the creation of new technical bodies. Although there is pratically no admittance for workers'unions in high technology management circles where “mathematical” topics are debated (on risk assessment, etc.), unions representatives hold a few positions in the "Conseil Supérieur des Installations Classées" (CSIC), in the "Comité Technique National of the Social Security" (CTN) or in other national instances in charge of industrial safety, and other sectoral consultative instances (Haut comité pour l’Environnement, Conseil Supérieur de la sûreté et de l’Information Nucléaire (CSSIN) etc. Therefore, the Unions might have had the feeling of being participants in the technocratic decision process, which, according to me, is broadly unreal, unless we assume ‘participation’ means a complete ‘implementation’ of the Unionists by the Technicians.

Thuse, an ever more crucial role has been played by the state body "corps des Mines" in the public management of both environmental and occupationnal hazards. This elite group of engineers (mainly polytechnicians having chosen the "Ecole des Mines", as an implementation school) is prone to hegemonize a number of managerial positions at least in two ministries concerned with those issues:
-Ministry of Industry (responsible for handling inner industrial risks, and also for monitoring nuclear safety),
-Ministry of Environment (particularly the Industrial Environnment Service, in charge of controlling industrial pollutions, and directing the activities of the "Directions de l'Industrie et de la Recherche" -DRIR-), ( Lascoumes et alii 1985).
It is also in control of the "Collège de la Prévention des risques technologiques" which gives advices to the prime Minister on topics as various as nuclear waste disposals, contradiction between man and machine, or biotechnology hazards.

The position of the Corps des Mines (traditionnally specialized in mining safety) makes it getting more and more power and expertise in what is now called "cindynics" (‘science’ of risk management) in France, and can be considered as the official doctrine on safety, by an Elite body which tends to think of itself as detaining the “scientific truth” on every kind of risks, and without any social debate with a “non competent public”.

In short, the State does not actually emphasize the necessity of stronger political relationships between social actors concerned with internal or external industrial dangers: the necessary unification of both problems is much more considered as a technical issue, and therefore tends to be achieved by state bodies where social partners are “captured” in the position of experts, and don’t behave anymore as protagonists of a societal debate. Until now, the State is not of much help for developping instances where Unions and Managers could directly meet and confront their contradictions about environmental issues.

2. industrial sectors.

Environmental and occupational ‘vices and virtues’ have not been not shared equally among the industrial sectors. In fact, there is a sort of "chiasm" between relatively virtuous sectors (in terms of occupationnal health) like Chemical or Nuclear Industries, which are at the same time the most hazardous ones for the environment, and relatively "bad" sectors (like Construction) where most of the workers are injured and killed , but which are relatively "benign" in terms of direct pollution impacts (if we except airborne dust, and wild urbanisation effects). This gap explains, partly at least, that environmental issues are usually excluded from industrial relations in France: in Chemistry or Atom, workers'unions have very high standards of claims concerning safety, but managers generally accept to comply with most of their demands. They even go frequently much further, especially in multinational firms, which face constraints for lining up local standards. Reversedly, in the construction sector, there has been a permanent struggle for enhancing the safety regulations and their implementations. Even weaken by their precarious statuses, workers support the Unions, and back up Work inspectors (civil servants) who fight for better working conditions or simple respect of the Law. But this is consuming all their "demanding energy" , nothing being left for more subordinate issues like environment.

3.Industrial sites level

In France, the industrials site is by no means the most relevant level for both environment and occupational safety, because of the importance of DRIR and CHSCT as well as the decentralized structure of Social Security and of the "Work inspectorate" (inspecteurs du travail, depending on the administration of Work).

For every site which has been classified as potentially hazardful, industrialists are required to comply with a number of rules which are directly to be checked by public engineers, gathered in "DRIR" -Directions Régionales de l'Industrie et de la Recherche- which are ruled by members of the "Corps des Mines", whom we hinted at, above . And, as many surveys have displayed it clearly, every manager in France recognizes DRIR as beeing the real authorities regulating environmental problems at the concrete level (Roqueplo, 1988), even if their relatively small number (500) permits them to control efficiently only a part of the classified plants (several tens of thousands).

The PPI (Plan Particulier d’Intervention) which is determined by the Manager of a ‘hazardous’ plant, in discussion with the Prefet, must, according to the Law, be transmitted to the general public .The POI (Plan d’opération interne -internal emergency plan) must, on turn, be known by every worker in the concerned plant.

The main local Management-Union institution is here the "CHSCT" (comité d'hygiène, de sécurité et des conditions de travail: Working Conditions,Health and Safety joint Committee), which is mandatory in every plant of 50 employees and more. This CHSCT is composed with elected worker (professional elections among candidates of unions lists, occurring each three years), and with management representatives. This CHSCT deals with every safety and health problem happening in the factory, and asks questions which must be answered by management, the workers part beeing in charge of the minutes and the secretary of the meetings (‘Auroux’ Laws). But even if the chair person of current meetings might be a unionist, the CHSCT statements are still subject to be ratified by a management decision in order to become more than informal advice or simple questionning. Pollution or dangers exported in the surroundings have been often raised by these Joint Committees.

The workers have no specific rights in preparing the PPI document. They are informed exactly on the same basis than the general public. And even for the POI (Plan d’opération interne -internal emergency plan), the CHSCT is not legally consulted. Up to that point, the workers are no more directly represented in the CDH (Conseils départementaux d’hygiène) who help the Prefet to take decisions in health crisis in a department, whereas Anglers, Industralists, deputies or town concellors are represented.

Except during inquiries in case of serious accidents or catastrophies, meetings between DRIR and CHSCT seem to be very rare events, and more generally workers and local unions don't have much (if any) contact with environmental institutions or groups outside their plant. In some very seldom cases, local authorities have organized joint meetings on environmental impacts of industry, but they cannot been considered as experiments for a broader and steadier style of relationships.

The consultation of CHSCT on environmental issues is still neither mandatory nor legally possible in 1991 in France : as we noticed it above, there was still no law (in 1991) in France allowing workers or their representatives to intervene on environmental topics, but a legal initiative is proceeding . However, the Unionists we have interviewed say “ this is a good idea”, because they “could at least try to have the standards more strictly applied”. They add that the environment, despite the legal “gap”, tends to become a “normal topic in bargaining”, depending on the strength of the plant union. In spite of those restraints, the CHSCT has slowly become the strategic ‘pivotal’ point for the extension of workers’ rights on environmental issues. Even without any legal basis, the CHSCT already interferes with decisions which have some impact on the site . And indeed, surveys have shown since long, that questions posed by the workers representatives in CHSCT in big compagnies, were ever more frequently adressing environmental issues, like substances released through industrial sewages, efficiency of air filters, transportation of dangerous materials or wastes outside the plants, urban planning in the surroundings, etc..

A number of case studies in industrial plants indicate that most workers are very aware of professional hazards (Dodier, 1985). They are also very conscious that important damages for the environment can be generated by the industrial activities. But their consciousness and action stay mostly at the "whistle blowing" level (Duclos 1981, 1987a). One must keep in mind that it is still very difficult for a worker or an engineer to perceive clearly the "bad side" of his (or her) own job (Duclos 1987, Gardin 1987) . It is not rare that the externalized nuisance is used as a tool for blackmailing the management during very crucial negociations: "if you don't give us better working conditions or better wages, we tell the truth -on the environmental situation- to the medias" (Duclos, 1987 a). This kind of “whistle blowing” tactics implies that a certain connivance between managements and workers exists about what are "normal" conditions of production (Duclos, 1987 b.). Nevertheless, criteria for a "normal pollution" have been more and more hardened. Especially among the younger workers and executives, people are not anymore ready to accept -without any contest- to work in ‘dirty plants’, a spontaneous label which refers to bad working conditions as well as outside pollution. More drastic standards on energy consumption, clean processes, recycling technologies, following of toxical wastes, etc.. are always welcome by workers (as long as they don't increase internal nuisances). A new professional pride, based on safety, is undoubtly taking place of the old risk-taking ethics.

Unfortunately, like in Germany or other European countries, the use of precarious and temporary (foreign) workforce for dangerous tasks (notably in nuclear and chemical industries) maintains among labourers a certain propensity to tolerate pollution and intoxication. The virtuous effects of permanent employment are still often countered by more frequent casual jobs among young people.

Main changes occured in 1990-1991.

Things were going to remain unchanged in terms of legal structures, when the polls began to alert the socialist Party : it was no more possible to treat the environmental problem as a simple demagogic item . It was time for action : namely, The Minister of Environment , Brice Lalonde considered he was capable to capture a number of “environmental votes”, on condition that he would show some more independance from the rest of the government. He, then, made two strategic moves : first, B.Lalonde created a “social movement” of his own -“Génération Ecologie”-, and second he displayed a “Plan national pour l’Environnement”, with great publicity. At a time when one of his directors answered to a unionist that giving more formal power to the CHSCT (in terms of environment concern) was probably prematurate, the group who was in charge of elaborating the “plan”, took more radical positions which drove the Parliament to pass it in 1990, with a remarkable speed, then to examine a set of subsequent laws (se below).

We can summarize the Eight Principles of Action of the PNE (Plan National pour l’Environnement, passed in June 1990):
-the quality of the environment is to be taken as an important goal in the global policy.
-The reduction of risks and costs must be achieved by prevention and innovation, rather than by “post-ante” decisions.
-a more severe enforcement of existing regulations and standards must be set up.
-”partnership” must be used as a general mean to deal with environmental problems at each level.
-Improvement of knowledge and competences is a pre-condition of a real improvement: credible datas and figures must serve as basis for political decisions.
-Democratization of public choices must be developped at every level (in order to control the “technocratic temptation”.
-Equity and solidarity must be introduced in the environmental debate : Ecology is a “social inequity” reducing (or aggravating) factor. The PPP (Polluter pays principle) must be more strictly enforced, and it must be extended to others selected actors.
-international opening is a necessity, and we must consider as a duty a real contribution to the “sustainable development” goal.

Thus stated, the objectives of the PNE were not quantified, except for the next aspects:
-reducing within ten years the nitrate ratio in continental waters down to the european standards : 50mg/l.
-doubling the purification and sanitation processes : the subsequent increasing of water prices being partly absorbed by the extension of the PPP to farmers and to others social actors.
-From now to 1995, the hazardous substances release in the seas would be reduced by one half; Toxical waste in seas will be completely stopped.
Within 10 years, 25% of the C02, NOX and classical air pollutants must be suppressed, as well as 100% of the CFC.

A whole set of new taxes and fees will be established in order to dissuade industrialists from producing polluting items, and to persuade them to create clean products, among which : a TVE (Tax on the ecological value) ; The departmental tax on electricity would be partly attributed to put electrical lines under the earth. Waste managers will have to invest funds in research to promote cleaner and safer disposal areas and procedures and to favour recycling solutions .

The “Seveso directive” ( european instruction regulating the Hasardous industrial plants) will be extended to many more sites, and to biotec- laboratories, dams, water purification units, intensive breeding farms, etc.

5 Billions Francs ( 5000.000.000) , will be dedicated to housing sound-proofing improvements : noise being considered in polls, as a main source of nuisance.

Environmental public expenditures will be increased by 50% in 1995, and 100% by the end of the century : representing now 1,3% of the PNB, it will thus reach 2% or so.

The PNE also provides for a number of new institutions, or renewal of existing ones :

-The creation of DIREN (Directions régionales de l’environnement) will give local instruments to the Ministry of Environment which, up to that point, consisted only of a central administration (only 200 civil servants belonging to the specific “environmental administration”).

-There will be an official “environmentalization” of the Industrial Inspectorates (DRIR: directions régionales de l’industrie et de la recherche) thus far, under the Ministry of Industry’s wing, and which, therefore, will become DRIRE ( de l’environnement), becoming subject to a common control by Industrial and Environmental Administrations.

Technical and Financial agencies (supposed to collect taxes from polluters) will be reunified : The AFME (discouraging Energy spending), the AQA (controling the air quality), the ANRED (helpling to a recycling policy of waste) will become parts of a AEME (Agence de l’Environnement et de la maîtrise de l’énergie), which will be the main specific fee and tax collector in the field of environment. More consistency is expected from this regrouping, along with more “convincing”power.

Two research centres will complete this renewed public mecanism :
-One on Risk issues (which regroup coal, and petrochemical already existing centres) : the INEIRIS.
-The second on Environmental Datas : The IFE (Institut français de l’Environnement), which will be the French Counterpart of the European Environmental Agency. This might be a real innovation, the datas being thus far collected by private and fairly small institutes which credibility was frequently questionned.

Among other institutional changes, we can cite :
-Environmental Regional Assessment comittees .
-Departmental Water and Environment Councils (Conseil départemental de l’eau et de l’environnement) taking place of the Departmental Health Council : DRH, in which Workers Unions will be represented.
-a mandatory “environmental assessment” to be published by industrialists.
-A national “Collège de l’Environnement” will be in charge of establishing an annual assessment on the Environment in France (which was already done by the ministry of Environment).
And last, but not least, our key change : the extension of CHSCT services to environmental topics !

Having publicly threaten his socialist friends to send in his resignation, if he would not get any help to enforce and finance his plan, B.Lalonde was at least successful in having it passed in Parliament without too many changes.

But indeed we may consider those quick improvements and implementations as the direct effects of the polls, and not as the results of a popular pressure on such special items as the right of unions to be consulted on environmental issues...




A merging of public opinions on environmental issues is not to be forecast in France before a long period of time. But even separately, each actor has made noticeable moves toward a new standard of care and consciousness. During the late eighties, the big french companies have reconstituted important financial resources and a number of industrial investments have been directed to modernize production processes, in the sense of a better quality and less pollution at each stage. At the same time, a fragile balance between indebtments and growth have driven many managers to use new flexible instruments, which frequently lead many employees to feel more insecure. This, in turn, incite people to behave with more ambiguity, being at the same time very responsive to environmental problems, and very cautious not to raise useless conflicts with their employers. As the "Union Power" (G. Adam, 1983) is no longer a reality, workers tend to be less creative in terms of societal projects. Many of the new jobs for ten years in France have been created in very small enterprises, having no real possibility for paying attention to environmental issues, and attempting at the same time to avoid any unionization among their employees.

Ambiguity is also to be challenged by the Managers : they have, indeed, to choose between two very different policies. On one hand they can think of the Environment as a new milch-cow. A main trend in "environmental industry" has to do with companies which specialize in environmental prevention, protection, or repair. The role of some big French companies (like la Lyonnaise des Eaux, ou la Générale des Eaux) in the management of water purification processes is now internationally aknowledged. So it comes with new bio-chemical technologies in less intensive Agriculture, etc. The impressive growth of such a sector must (Drouet 1987), nevertheless, must be interpreted with some caution because there is no evidence that a significant part of those activities will not grow in a parallel direction to the growth of negative effects on the environment ! For instance, purification of water or waste disposing technologies are depending on the extensive pollution of ground waters. One could forecast such economical distorsions in the context of global warming, with the establishment of industries which will specialize in protecting coastal areas from sea-rise, or with industrial farming going along a better weather in specific regions.

Let us now examine how the french industrialists are thinking about all those perspectives and opportunities, and how far they deal with the environment as a question they must also debate with their employees.


In a survey carried out in 1991 on the views of French industrialists concerned by environmental problems , I found that the way in which management relates to the actuality of environmental hazards and pollution is heavily influenced by their symbolic framework of reference. Their definition of what represents a source of pollution or a hazard, or of what makes a risk acceptable or not, is closely related to judgments they pass on others, such as the public or the press, to how well their image comes out of a confrontation with other countries, industries or trades, and to the strength of corporate or class identities. Even the economic motive, i.e. the computable gains or losses involved, appears to be of secondary importance (in spite of management's assertion of a so-called 'industrial logic') compared to their philosophy of the social and natural world.

What, then, is this philosophy? Is it moving fast to integrate the environmental imperative? Is french management more and more heedful of the environment or has it remained indifferent to it? Is french management ready to include the environmental issue as a part of standardized industrial relations processes ? Such are the issues which this report aims to address now .

The answers to these questions provided by French industry are of two types : some claim that environmental issues have always been a subject of concern, while others believe that concern for the environment has been drastically revived over the past few years.

A long-standing concern ?

The following quotation is typical of the introductory remarks made by many of the managers interviewed :

"The consideration of environmental issues by companies manufacturing and marketing consumer goods is not that recent. It dates back to the 1945 to 1975 period. Manufacturing processes and production sites were then the main areas of environmental concern. That was how it all began. Much was achieved, both from a sense of duty and obligation. We have factories which do not pollute at all. We have recommendations for controlling all sorts of pollution. A whole collection of measures was taken which very noticeably reduced pollution levels." (Chairman of the French branch of a large chemical firm, spring 1991).

This type of opinion has led various think tanks on subjects of corporate concern to develop a very positive conception of industrial history. According to Entreprise et Progrès , for instance, "In the seventies, companies usually established a strong link between safety and care for the environment. They adopted an attitude focused on the improvement of processes and the reduction of the most obvious sources of pollution. They began processing toxic fumes, fighting river pollution or waste storage. (...) In spite of economic constraints in these times of crisis, financial plans were set up, extending over several years."

"(...) Far greater efforts have been made since 1987. The emphasis has been on a better coordination between industry and research. Companies (...) have developed rigorous methods to improve their knowledge of hazardous concentration thresholds, different types of toxicity, risk classification or recycling processes. They have set up environment departments sometimes headed by thirty or forty specialized engineers working on a separate budget. These departments proclaim their environmental ethics and now formulate their objectives in very clear operational terms (...) of which the following recommendations provide a few examples: "A reliable impact survey is to be obtained before any product can be manufactured." "The marketing of products whose manufacturing causes pollution should be stopped systematically whenever the said pollution cannot be eliminated."

"(...) The general state of mind of industry is to work towards pollution-free factories, controlled-impact products and processed waste, by making the necessary investments even if the costs involved are high."

In reality however, things have not gone that smoothly. A split has appeared, for instance, in the world of industry, between, on the one hand, attitudes of mere dismissal of the pollution charge, and on the other, attitudes of active pollution control. At first this did not seem to be a split between specific types of companies. But the slight differences of opinion between the French employers' union (CNPF : Conseil National du Patronat Français) on one hand, which although it agreed that environmental problems should be taken into account , remained cautious about the environmental labelling of products, and the management of the nationalized chemical companies on the other, eager to demonstrate their excellence in the environmental field between 1981 and 1985, pointed to a split in attitudes between small or medium-sized companies and large corporations. On the other hand, in each sector accused of polluting, industrial fronts appeared, fiercely opposed to the anti-pollution campaigns, and began lobbying like their American counterparts to halt any drastic measures which may have been on the agenda. Also the polluting plants themselves, whether they were attacked and openly pointed out by local coalitions or merely long known to pollute, resisted and denied with greater force than the industrial group which they were part of.

In all cases there never was a smooth shift from one attitude to the other. There were about-turns, sudden swings in industrial philosophy after long periods of stability. In almost all the interviews, however, the most common attitude was one of denial of the alleged pollution. French industrialists tend to complain that they are disliked and misunderstood, under attack from the irrational public, the thoughtless media and the irresponsible idealists. They come across to others, or at least to the sociologists, as harsh and strident critics of everybody other than themselves, including other sectors of industry, even sometimes of their immediate competitor within their own field.

The collection of interviews voicing such criticism has proved so large and varied as to lead us to interpret the string of negative judgments passed about others by the heads of industry - courteous as they may be in interpersonal relationships - as the symptoms of an unsolved problem: that of the personal challenge for an industrialist of having to identify with the rather difficult and uncomfortable role which he is institutionally assigned. The most likely explanation is that industrialists, because they do not discuss the legitimacy of their actions directly with the public, but invest the public space by means of the silent instrument of induced consumption, assume from the outset that their activity breaks the age-old rules of civility. Since industrialists consider that they have no alternative (some will say "if I don't advertise, my company will die"), this leads them to ignore the original illegitimacy of their actions (if one is to talk with the public, one has to resort to words, producing is not enough) and react violently to whoever reminds them of this distressing fact. The aggressiveness of industrialists towards others (except of course when they are seeking to win over the consumer) can thus be seen as an assertion of their usefulness and legitimacy. “After all, their attitude aptly suggests, if my products are as illegitimate as all that, why do you, the public, go on mass consuming them?”

Indeed, nobody can disregard the fact that each one of us contributes to modernity. In this sense the widespread accusation of irresponsibility made by industry against those who hold up the environment as an obstacle in the way of its action should be taken seriously. But on the other hand industry cannot go on behaving as if one could ignore the fact that it has the near-monopoly of invading the public space through the silent and effective medium of the product, and that this position causes a bias in communication and sometimes makes it impossible to respond.

The ‘aggressiveness’ of industrialists should therefore be seen as a challenge to the function of supposedly useful production. It signals a contradiction written into the global culture between the official pattern of functional roles for all and the reality of radical dissymmetries between certain actors, such as the productive institutions and the citizens. In the final analysis this aggressive attitude calls for consideration of other references of the social exchange. If industrial production was required to comply with broad technological control agreements, it would no longer leave management alone to face the dilemmas of organizational choice. But such a change would mean a drastic modification of the industrial conception of “rights of controlling the production goals and means”. In the French context, it would necessarily drive the Industrialists to share some of these rights with Workers and Consumers, and , therefore, to begin merging those two strictly separate categories. But of course, this sharing (and obove all, this merging) are... not “on the Agenda”. I could even say that it is, for a number of persons I interviewed, still “out of the question”. To allow workers representative to debate on environmental impacts of production processes is considered by most of French industrialists, both as a “truism” (i.e. being a natural part of normal day-to-day professionnal conversations) and as a “useless formal and legal constraint” (coming to the point of legalizing ‘workers’ rights’ on that matter : “unions are not representing local inhabitants”.). The main idea is that the industrial management in France is totally responsible of decisions determining the production organization, this principle having been proved very efficient in the past.
We must notice this position has never degenerated into a conflictual argument, for a simple reason : unions have never, on their side, attempted to use the environmental issue as a serious industrial relation theme. Paradoxically enough, the question has been very recently passed (December 1991) in the Senate Assembly (let us remember the French Legislative Institutions are bicameral), which is supposed to be much more “right wing” oriented than the Deputy Chamber is). The CNPF representatives I contacted in that period said they were “very worry about legal modifications which would completely turn upside-down the principle of industrial responsibility”. As a matter of fact, they seemed to be fairly surprised, and showed some difficulty to “lobby” as efficiently as usual, being obviously unprepared to react firmly and consistently against a proposal which had not be pushed forward previously, neither by the Administration, nor by the Workers’ Unions !

Those late events confirm the fact that the French Industrialists may know a “brutal” landing, after two decades of autarchic style and autistic representations of their own history in environmental behaviour. This somewhat cruel picture of environmental industrial history needed to be drawn to guard the reader against the current tendency of many employers' organizations to rebuild history as a mere series of preparatory steps towards the positive consideration of environmental issues, all more “spontaneous” and self-conscious” than others.

Of course the examples quoted are verifiable and there is some measure of truth in the current optimistic climate. Moreover such retrospective wishful thinking can be useful to secure a mobilization and 'positive orientation' effect. Also one may agree that the public, both individually and collectively, has now been roused to awareness. Only to mention the problem of waste, many companies join in the research of organizations such as GECOM (Groupe d'Etude pour le Conditionnement Moderne) or ERRA (European Recovery and Recycling Association) and are beginning to study environmental issues in all their technical and legal aspects. However a militant, committed interpretation of history, useful as it may be, should not be mistaken for the objective description of the past. The history of the relationship between industry and the environment has not been a peaceful one, even if it may seem useful, after the event, to claim that it has. It has been difficult, aggressive, sometimes dreadful. This should not be forgotten, if one is to consider the course of future events with clearmindedness.

A recent conversion .

The recent willingness of companies (so recent that we saw it grow during the course of this survey) to make statements about the environment seems to have had a real impact. Since the Brundtland report and international conferences on the ozone layer and the greenhouse effect, the environment has become an official common asset, an undividable whole. A close link has been established between major accidents, environmental protection, climatic change and the protection of resources for the future, thus leading to a new definition of the responsibility of industry in connection with the concept of 'sustainable development'.

In the English-speaking world ( at which I hint here, because it has frequently be taken as exemplary in French Business Journals, ans well as in Trade unions newspapers), it cannot be denied that large companies have shown ever greater interest in environmental issues over the past two or three years. Dupont de Nemours has withdrawn from the production of CFC's - while emphasizing that this activity brought in a yearly $750 million - because it might affect the quality of the atmosphere (ATOCHEM the French CFC producer was very impressed by this example : but did not follow it..). McDonald's has become a champion of waste recycling (the company produces millions of tons of paper and plastic waste scattered by the consumers of the 18 million meals served daily in the U.S.A. alone. In Britain the company has begun recycling its polystyrene containers and most of its paper napkins are now made of recycled paper. Also it is carrying out a vast educational campaign to train consumers not to throw the empty packages just anywhere. In contrast with such examples, the french “fast food” companies have been somehow reluctant to develop such “moralist” educational campaigns.

A certain sense of “decency” has also restrained the French Industrialists from advertizing too loudly their good practices. When the 3M company invested in hundreds of pollution controls that went far beyond legal requirements, everybody had to know it !. Procter & Gamble mentionned on its products sold in supermarkets: "Share in our involvement in environmental protection - this washing powder is packaged in 100% recycled paper." The same company then offered a fabric softener to be mixed in a re-useable plastic container: "Better for the environment, less to throw away" said the ads. The challenge on this “green image” was not understood by French Companies, since recently. Assuming that French Customers would not be as highly sensitives to environmental motivations as Germans, Britons or Americans, they did not make any quick move, whereas firms such as Colgate Palmolive, Arco, Lever Brothers, 3M or Sunoco, did not hesitate to base their campaigns on the idea that buying from them would help to protect the environment. Shops selling skin care products informed customers about the ozone level and the global warming of the planet. All Body Shop employees were required to spend half a day a week doing militant work. The Body Shop chain collected a million signatures in 1988 on a petition requesting that the President of Brazil should save the tropical forests. As a result the company opened 420 shops in thirty-eight countries within thirteen years. In France, this example was only followed by a few conpanies. For instance, the “Monoprix” supermarket chain did the same, and even more : they allowed the activists of the Green party to collect funds and memberships in their Stores !

In practice, “green strategies” remained rare and isolated until 1989, and in any case, there was some delay in comparison with other industrialized countries; delay which revealed some degree of deep misunderstanding of the “environmental stake”.

Things began to change on a significant scale in 1989. Since 1989 -Year of the Environment - there has been a chorus of virtuous environmental commitments in the industrial world in France, conducted by the media. In February, 1989, an inquiry sponsored by the French Department of the Environment and financed by the Gas Board found that 50 percent of the six hundred French industrialists polled considered that the environment had become a major preoccupation and 76 percent thought that contributing to protect the environment was crucial to their corporate image. More recently, at a forum organized by the International Chamber of Commerce, chaired by Peter Wallenberg and including 170 heads of multinational companies such as Electrolux, Henkel, IBM, Shell, BP, Norsk-Hydro, Mitsubishi, Tokyo Electric Power etc., it was loudly proclaimed that the common goal was to combine a sound environment with the smooth running of business. The French government, which until then had remained cautious, was jumping onto the bandwagon. Mr Fauroux, the Minister of Industry, announced his intention of "turning industry green" by proposing an environmental charter whose purpose was to develop training, promote environmental technologies through ANVAR (French national agency for the development of research), an "ideas contest" with a 30-million Franc budget, and improvement contracts in each industrial sector. Mr Fauroux also recommended that concrete steps be taken for the underground storage of industrial waste. Public commitments and environmental statements of intent were making good progress, as evidenced by the appearance of slogans such as 'total quality product' or 'public-spirited company'.

Since those two last years, change in management's perception on environmental risk is impressive : environmental safety has become a " must" as a part of managerial discourses (Duclos, 1990a, Tramier, 1989). In the Car industry, following the example of the Volvo's President, some managers dare to express openly their doubts about expanding the number of individual motor vehicles in urban contexts (Lévy, 1990)!. Mostly in the big companies, the environmental quality is now taken in charge as a full criterium for economic assessment (Laufer, 1989, Manuel , 1990). Although special environmental skills or knowledge are not yet requested for hiring their engineers, many companies call for pin-point expertises in risk assessment and environmental impacts. A new consulting sector is emerging supported by legal obligations for assessment. Some big enterprises (in petrochemistry or Energy production sectors mainly) have also developped their own research staffs on specific environmental issues (Marvillet, 1989, Tramier, 1989). Some companies are now, very proudly, proposing sophisticated methodologies for assessing and preventing diffuse or accidental pollutions. Some of them have even fixed up "environmental indicators" which can be followed plant by plant on a yearly basis (Salamitou, 1989).

At the level of Industrial Unions, Environment has also become a lieu commun. But the emphasis on it is very different among organisations. As we have noticed it, the CNPF (Conseil national du patronat français) is still resisting a strong commitment, whereas Business "think tanks" can be very avant-gardistes in that matter. Some industrial federations (as in chemistry - the "Union des Industries Chimiques"-, or steel industry ) are particularly busy with new approaches, both defensive and pro-active. They are generally involved in ethical propositions which are discussed at international levels. A number of helpful checklists (of "good environmental behaviors", of decisive criteria for assessing an environmental orientation of the company, etc.) are circulated by those groups who play an important role in spreading new concepts and methods among reluctant "middle size" industrialists. More broadly, the "biggest" are the compagnies participating in those clubs, the more advanced and detailed are their propositions. On the contrary, federations representing small enterprises tend to be more defensive and prone to negative reaction to ecological criticism.

But, the burden of the cultural lag is still there : the technical enthousiasm has a counterpart : some industrialists are so certain of the technical qualities of their products and manufacturing processes, that they feel insulted by demands to confront it to "labelling" criteria ! More generally, the French manufacturers are still particularly slow at understanding the opportunities of selling "green products", as well as perceiving the dangers of being vulnerable from that point of view (cf the Perrier affair). In some specific cases, like the Nuclear Industry, the managers can even stand on stubborn negative positions about Ecologists(Lény, 1989), criticism they don't seem to consider contradictory with the praise of the environmental qualities of their own activity. Never theless, let us assume that those behaviours are more and more isolated, because of the strengh of the “new wind”.

Why are the Industrialists changing ?

The managers polled suggest five possible explanations to this new situation that prompts industrialists to 'change gears' in environmental matters, whether they want it or not.

Three of these causes have to do with the social environment, which is increasingly distrustful and aggressive towards industry : the increased political power of the environmental movement, the irrationality of the public and its fears heightened by ill-controlled scientific alarms, and ever greater pressure brought to bear by the regulatory authorities. Of course, the Unions are never quoted as sources of a significant pressure.

Two further explanations concern the industrialist himself : firstly there are natural sources of virtuousness built into the structure of organizations (the growing internationalization of companies requires all firms to align themselves on the highest standards, and companies all proclaim their new technological potential now well under control) and secondly environmental soundness is increasingly seen as a competitive factor between companies, which is of course a more ambiguous and unsettling reason for being concerned about the environment (an example of this can be found in the most revealing issue of "environmentally sound" seals affixed to products, which a major part of French management is firmly opposed to).

Here again there are two radically different interpretations of the reasons why the present situation has led to a heightening of environmental awareness. According to some of the interviewees, the notion of environmental protection has emerged because the economic crisis has come to an end, whereas a second, seemingly larger group, considers on the other hand that environmental concern is part of a broader context of overall anxiety . Thus the way in which the context of stronger environmental motivation is seen separates two groups of interviewees: those who of their own accord (without any influence coming from the unions) have decided to worry about the environment, and those to whom environmental concern is imposed as an external constraint.

In the final analysis this split illustrates the basic question put to industry by the environment: can a company 'internalize' environmental problems? Can it achieve perfect production from cradle to grave without jeopardizing its profit? For an individual, the notion of citizenship refers to his relationship to the 'city', i.e. the social whole he considers himself to belong to, usually the nation. What city can a firm refer to then, that might grant it rights to pollute, however limited?

The cultural forces at work

When researching the factors which determine the attitude of industry to the environment, I believe that one should first reject the idea - however tempting - of grading firms just as one grades pupils at school, in the hope that the shame felt by those at the bottom will urge them to improve their performance by appealing to a healthy spirit of competition. This is a moralistic approach which ignores the cultural and economic specificities of individual companies.

According to certain analyses for instance, corporate behaviour can be simplified to the response to various institutional pressure factors, such as major accidents, pollution, a new awareness of public opinion, a tightening of regulations, increased eco-taxes improved coordination between national and international levels, government action, etc.. According to this theory there are three types of responses to such events. The first, known as 'green marketing', takes care over the image of the company and changes products and processes after the event in pursuit of popularity. The second adapts to new market requirements and regulations. The third, known in the U.S. as proaction, anticipates future developments in the environmental field. Companies can henceforth be classified into different groups according to which type of attitude is predominant in their behaviour. Such groups include the 'deafs', the 'followers', the 'opportunists', the 'stars' and the perceptive. We developed a similar classification of our own: the 'impervious', the 'observers', the 'adaptive' and the 'virtuous'. However one of the problems in this type of grouping is that every large company is likely to fall into all categories at once if one looks in turn at all the different aspects of its policy.

All one achieves in such a classification is a determination of the presence or absence of clear statements by the company in one area or another. Building a model, on the other hand, would require incorporating all the statements made by management or printed in official documents into a coherent strategy, which amounts to denying the basic contradictions connected with the organization of each firm and the intrinsic limits of sales arguments. If one tries however to fit a company's strategy as a whole into a simplified logic, one runs the risk of arriving at false conclusions. Defining the behaviour of Rhône Poulenc, for instance, as 'massive mediatization' cannot by far acccount for all the different aspects of the company's policy. One is finally reduced to interpreting sales brochures, which is of very limited interest both to scientists and management.

If on the other hand one takes a closer look at the statements made by the heads of industry, one finds that their different (or similar ) attitudes to the environment depend on circumstances and are often selective, inconsistent and extremely variable, whether in the area of prevention or in that of a reversal to more hazardous practices. In short there are no simple and universally applicable criteria to distinguish between pro- and anti- environment companies. What one finds within each company is a constellation of forces in motion.

Seen from this angle, a firm - curiously - doesn't appear as a unified whole but as the scene of a wrestling match between different notions of risk and of the environment which are themselves supported by different professional and social groups. These groups combine and confront each other, negotiate points of strategy which they use as bargaining counters, in the same way as different political parties share a city between themselves through their respective development plans. We often encountered at least five such groups: the product-men (concerned with a certain technological or productive process), the finance-men (concerned only with profitability, especially in the short and medium term), the house-men (concerned with the firm considered as the global, long-lived unit to which they owe allegiance), the communication-men (concerned with all-out seduction), the class-men (concerned with defending hierarchical levels), etc.. Usually the management of the company arbitrates between the rival points of view, or more accurately confers managerial power on a system of influence in which each of the above-mentioned groups has a different weight, so that one could say that at a given moment a company is run by a coalition dominated by the class-men, or the product-men, or the sale-men. One of the possible implications of this would be to consider that a better relationship to the environment could be achieved by bringing to power a group interested in protecting it, or by forming a coalition able to silence as far as possible those groups which are indifferent to it. But it is not sure that any one of the rival groups will be more sensitive than the others to the environment and will not merely favour its own narrow views on the question.

Among the contrasting approaches investigated, that of the product-men is often rather defensive (it draws heavily on military metaphors to describe the plot against the industry) and offers positive technological solutions to the problem.

According to the product-men a criticism of industrial pollution is inadmissible as such, because it is in the nature of industry to be a reactive-type action. I gradually found out that it is not only the economic argument that underlies this conception of progress which my interviewees felt so strongly about. Theirs is a heroic vision of technology, which has to triumph both over nature and competition, the former untaned, the latter unforgiving. The defensive metaphors are not only a stylistic device, they express a deep-seated belief. The idea that nature is a friend or that negotiation is necessary between environmental actors is first experienced by the product-men as a distressing split between different visions of the world, even if they later endorse such opinions. I found, as I had already discovered in earlier surveys , that both industrialists and engineers feel their actions to be legitimate because they are protective. They are useful and good actions as they enable the system to resist a wild and aggressive environment. Of course man attacks nature, but only in order to defend himself against it: "the progress of civilization results in the manufacturing of many drugs and other products whose purpose is by definition toxic. In order to defeat disease, a drug has to attack germs. In order to protect the crops, a pesticide has to destroy harmful insects. In order to protect the forests, the germs that attack wood have to be killed. Man's duty is to take up the challenges of progress, but he must do so without harming nature and life ".

Positive action for the protection of the environment is thus not impossible. We can handle the environment just as we successfully handled plant security and safety, by means of figures, measurements, sophisticated devices, instrument panels. This leads to statements of the type: "The monthly evolution of the environment index has been minus 22 percent over the past fifteen months." However such measurements do not necessarily have an altogether rigorous meaning. As one official put it, above all what one is saying is "I am measuring." The reference to figures allows 'operationalization' by means of which industry proves both to itself and to others that the purpose of its existence is to function efficiently. However the biggest paradox in this commitment of industry, which benefits the cause of the environment, is that no sooner has the environment been reduced to an operationalizable parameter than it disappears altogether, swallowed up in the productive routine. The problem is then to find out whether what disappears in this way, is only those elements that the model takes into consideration, or the complex and unpredictable reality of pollution.

Coming to the Industrial relation issue, The Product-men paradigm is also somehow paradoxical : on one hand, it is very close to the CGT discourse which can really be considered as its “translation” in union language; but on the other hand, it is firmly opposed to any kind of sharing of power and information with unions, especially when the unions are taking positions about “external issues” such as consumption and environment.

The position of house-men offers a subtle variation from that of the first group. They, too, are offended by the criticism levelled at their action. However this is not because they feel that it threatens their role, but because they consider that it unjustifiably denies that their company has always taken great care of the environment and has always applied its ethics to this area, as well as all other areas. This position is what makes house-men favour the idea of un ethical control of technology and mistrust automated solutions. They put greater trust in the human factor : they accept to share informations with workers organizations, provided that those debates would remain “internal” and more or less informal.

Communication-men are less close to house-men (they constantly have to counteract the negative and deceitful effects of house narcissism) and have a relationship of both connivance and conflict with product-men (when defending the product and image, they come up against the arguments of outside actors, which are not all to be dismissed as reactions of ignorance and emotionalism. In fact, intellectuals, arbitrators, or activists likely to originate or relay criticism levelled at industry are among the prime targets of seductive pollution-control campaigns. The model for such campaigns is provided by the experience of in-house industrial relations, especially in those companies which pride themselves on lessening the spirit of class antagonism. In the case of industrial disputes, the aim is to 'absorb the impact of criticism' without however ignoring it or questioning its validity, and if possible by anticipating the problem. It is probably in this field that communication policies have best been developed on a local scale. In Toulouse, for instance, three companies, SNPE, CDF-Chimie and Tolochimie, all integrated into the urban fabric, have developed communication strategies directed at opinion relays. In the Sanofi-Chimie company in the French town of Sisteron, the emphasis has been placed on training executives and particular consideration has been given to the firm's relationship with an organization of troublesome old-age pensioners who were questioning the processing of phosgene deposits. In Grenoble, the haulage company Coing worked with Rhône Poulenc and in meetings with various external partners promoted the idea of an ethical code for the transportation of hazardous substances .

Among those cases, some display the possibilities of coordinating information processes with the Unions, provided the Management respects a certain degree of “identity” autonomy: then, the unions conduct their own campaigns inside and outside the plant, on similar patterns. But in other cases, the call for external “public groups” participation has been felt as insulting by Unions organizations. It is obvious that the “managerial style” (we have called “communication-men” style) is facing the risk to be interpreted by union as a challenge of their own “social” function.

Thus, the environment has begun to emerge as an institutionnal position in many big private or public compagnies. But it is not clear whether -in the manager's mind- it is related to industrial relations or not. In some firms, a new "Department of Environment" is tied up with international relations. In others, it is correlated with "Communication" and dedicated to produce the most convincing "green" image as possible. In others, it is associated with internal safety. But this last pattern, which is by no means the most frequent, does not imply that relationships with workers organizations are prevailing for those problems. On the contrary, I have the impression that this last environment/security type emphasizes the technical -and repressive-side of risk prevention. Obviously, environment is a topic about which the French managers try to escape a confrontation with workers representatives, as if there was still a "taboo" in allowing workers to debate on industrial outputs. But as long as this trend is not challenged by the workers themselves, it can go on without any agressive expression.

The appearance of environmental issues in the forefront of corporate concern has thus resulted in a confrontation - which aroused mixed reactions - between different logics. This can be seen clearly in its impact on organizations. From this point of view, according to the evidence provided by several representatives in each company surveyed, four features seem to characterize corporate environmental policy :

(i) the environment is increasingly considered as a question that should be the responsibility of a department;

(ii) however companies are not prepared to create an independent environment function, and are not sure which department it should be attached to. At present it is attached either to the technical department responsible for plant safety, or to the 'communication and marketing' department, or to the legal and public relations department. These differences show that environmental concern arises within structures of varying power depending on the company.

(iii) companies are even less prepared to vest real power of decision or hierarchical power in those responsible for the environment, whose job fluctuates between a high-level, coordinating and impetus-giving, function and a low-level role of adviser to general management.

(iiii) companies are not prepared to tolerate the legal introduction of “workers rights” to know the impacts of production on the environment, and even less to the legal basis of workers proposals on those topics.

A cultural change underway

What struck me most on this survey was the impression I had of witnessing a real-time cultural conversion of industrial officials: whatever their position in the company, they are now led - as citizens - to acknowledge a whole set of facts, however painful this may be.

First they acknowledge the reality of pollution, past or present, as an integral part of their activity. And they also acknowledge in their statements the existence of a potential risk and the responsibilities which it entails.

Generally the risk acknowledged is connected with the activity of each sector or trade, and everybody mentions the hazards connected to their own sector, so that the statements collected throughout the interviews form a remarquably homogeneous series.

"One essential point is of course the maximum accident. Dividing by 10 or 100 the probabilities of occurrence will not make any difference to emotional attitudes. The key to the problem is of course the question of the accident's magnitude. The risk of a serious nuclear accident should be brought into proportion and considered on a human and environmental scale comparable to that of other industrial or natural hazards such as oil, coal, chemicals, volcanoes, etc. in order to lessen its emotional impact." (a mining engineer, member of an employer's organization)

"We do not deny the hazards connected with the cokeworks" (technical director, steel industry)

"The worst hitch is a sphere of gas that explodes... if it is toxic. In this case the only cure is prevention. Afterwards one can do all sorts of things to manage the accident, but what one should really do is prevent it." (technical director, industrial gas plant)

"Every Frenchman consumes an average 50 kilos of products from our group. Seen from this angle, this unquestionably gives us responsibilities in the nutritional field. As far as acid rain is concerned we try to control small details, such as checking the combustion of our fleet of lorries." (general manager, food industry)

"We have done almost all we could with chemistry. We are now going to have to start genetic engineering, which is a major problem, because when we begin interfering with human genetics we will be launching into the unknown. This will entail a major environmental risk." (general manager, food industry)

"In chemistry and pharmacology there are real risks: liquid chlorine, a 10 cubic-metre tank of chlorine that explodes, phosgene. These are 900-kilo enclosed refrigerated containers. In pharmacology we use toxically active products, but in very small quantities and with the greatest confining precautions. The raw material stage is the most hazardous." (director of research, pharmaceutical industry)

"Any active product has side-effects, but almost every person reacts differently. (...) However it is always difficult to evaluate the impact on the body of a continuous absorption of new substances) (...). An accident may occur, you can have an excess level of certain molecules that ought to disappear with the rain or with the plant's metabolism, but that ends up polluting a crop. Checking the batches is part of quality control." (same)

"The car is an instrument of freedom. But isn't there a risk that it might in the future constrain our freedom, physical, sociological, political or technological? It is up to us to measure the risks and reduce them, otherwise we might in a few years' time jeopardize our industry ."

"When planes are launched, they already comply with all the rules of airworthiness that I told you about. However, as the history of air travel shows, it happens sometimes that certain things had not been foreseen, such as, in the case of jets, structural fatigue. Alternate compression and decompression causes metal strain." (technical director, aeronautical industry)

What is new in the acknowledgement of environmental risks, as in that of actual pollution, is that it now extends far beyond the production stage, down to the use cycle of the product by the consumer.

Usually the action we take is not directed at the outside user of the product, because we tend to separate internal and external risks of accidents or poisoning. Inside, accidents are basically related to production. Outside, they are related to transportation (e.g. all those notorious flying bombs). Finally there are risks connected with the storage and use of the product by the client." (director of communications, industrial gas plant)

Some risks may be more difficult to acknowledge because they are not altogether predictable, but are linked to a lack of scientific knowledge. This also now needs to be said, and leads to a positive philosophy of scientific uncertainty:

«We cannot affect innocence and say: "we don't know if our products are dangerous or pollute". We have our chemists, and you don't need to study for many years to know that chlorine is toxic. We know that hazardous products are released among the general public. But for some other lines of products we don't necessarily know all the facts. The industry is expected, understandably, to know as much as possible. But when we launch a new product on the market, we really have to comply with drastic requirements, experts' reports and other important documents. What happened with the CFC's was that we produced them because in the context of the chemistry of our domestic lives they were an inert, stable, non-flammable product. We knew they would pour out into the atmosphere, but would retain their inert properties. So we were not afraid to take the plunge. Until the relatively recent findings of the studies carried out about Concorde.»(director of research, petrochemical industry)

More generally, conversion to the environment or the 'road to Damascus' effect are experienced as the fulfilment of a great mission, as can be seen in the frequent use by the heads of industry of the crusade metaphor in their statements.

"The increase in energy consumption, which goes with that of consumption in general, threatens the thermic balance of our planet by virtue of the increased greenhouse effect. In the ordinary acts of our everyday lives, and more importantly in our everyday professional activities, we must all behave as crusaders of ecological protection. The future of our living environment is at stake, and above all that of future generations."

Such cathartic statements do not only signal a change of attitude towards environmental risk. They also serve to legitimate in the industrialists' own eyes his conversion to a new way of considering others. The following story is typical of a rhetoric that allows a transfer of identity, a reversal of behaviour hitherto considered righteous.

"I was the manager of a large factory along the Rhine, and the pressure from environmentalist groups was very strong. I was setting up a very dangerous cyanhydric acid unit. The greens came to see us and said "You can't do this". I arranged an open-door operation. First we said "Come and visit us, we'll explain what we are doing and show you the safety measures we are taking. We gave the environmentalists (teachers for the most part) a lecture. One of them said: "What if your engineers made a mistake in their calculations?" This annoyed me: I repeated my explanation in simpler terms. Same question. I thought, "Easy! I'll bash him up": "You are a headmaster, if you don't teach your kids to make correct calculations, they will never become good engineers." Now I realize in hindsight what a big service this person did me by asking this question. We do find it difficult to imagine a disaster. Technicians do tend to be certain about what they are doing. Fortunately so. But we must succed in training engineers to think about industrial risks and organize group sessions to imagine all th disastrous scenrios possible within each unit in case of failure of equipment or drift of process." (security manager, chemical industry)

The ironic side of the story is that Others are recognized among people living outside...but not among unionists, still considered as “a part of Myself” :
“Union people ? we don’t really see much difference. On the industrial side, it is only a question of skill and competence. We are all professionnals : this is not a matter of union demand”.. (the same).

An inescapable ethical change

This new -and partial- awareness has led some of the officials interviewed - the most advanced - to raise the problem of linking up various principles of civil commitment into a coherent philosophy, i.e. adopting an ethical code. One of our interviewees explained this very clearly: "What's the use of ethics in a company? Man defines himself by his ethics, and human conflicts are very often ethical ones. Don't you think companies ought to define their own ethics and determine their operating rules? Mention is often made of a corporate culture. There is a code of ethics behind it which is not always formulated. So the recommendation we are increasingly making to company heads we meet is: "Define your ethics, your scale of values, of references, so that people will know." Of course you can hardly imagine a University graduate applying for a post and enquiring: "What are the ethics of your company?" He may not get a very good reception. But I think we are moving in that direction. The way in which a company is going to define its ethics determines the way in which it is going to communicate with its staff and the public at large. And that is what is helping to restore the image of companies in the eyes of the citizen, the fact that firms now claim values to defend."

This structuring of ethical principles is already giving rise to large numbers of public statements by individual companies, organizations, unions and various coalitions. They tend to take the form of codes or sets of recommendations gathered under stimulating titles such as the 'responsible care' promoted by American industry. An intense activity is thus underway in national and above all international industrial circles, jointly elaborating codes of conduct. One such example in the chemical field is CEFIC , whose goal was explained to us by one of its leaders:

"We try to promote in the entire industry improvement agreements (what Americans and Canadians call 'responsible care'), according to which management accepts to sign a number of ethical principles later expounded into codes of conduct. The International Chemical Union is soon to sign one. The degree of enforcement of these codes is then assessed, but is of course difficult to quantify. The credibility rating of individual companies is thus determined. We try to develop a system of joint management of the agreements, with the governments and the environmentalists. In Europe a generalization of the responsible care philosophy is still far away. The German industry reacted most indignantly to the idea at first, the English industry got off to a good start and the Italians seem to be looking at it very closely.

Clearly this industrial civility is still a precarious and as yet unconfirmed trend. It often tends to restrict itself to codes of ethics which formalize and harmonize professional practices rather than challenge their purpose or limit their hitherto undisputed prerogatives. It is likely that the agreements thus codified are all the more widely publicized than their enforcement cannot be seriously verified. It is also likely that they seek to anticipate the inescapable enforcement of laws which sooner or later will have to assign new boundaries to hitherto lawful industrial acts. Last, but not least, outside civility and ethics seem to have a paradoxical effect on the inside : it tend to amalgamate the variety of industrial contradictory actors, denying the constitency of separate union points of view.

Industrial civility is hard to achieve

Can one consider that environmental problems are taken seriously by industry? "Definitely yes", replied one official. These were the reasons he gave for being so convinced:

"The environment has become a component which, alongside technology, financial constraints and the management of human resources must be integrated in corporate strategies. Firstly, on account of the impact of manufacturing processes on air and water and waste levels, and secondly of the fate met with by the products after use (there is increasing concern about packaging materials and after-use collection). The concept of 'eco-product' is progressing, and so is the idea of the 'environmentally sound' seal to be affixed to it. An entire industry of environmentally-related trades is also building up, including water, gas and waste processing sectors. French water companies such as Lyonnaise des Eaux and Générale des Eaux are exporting their know-how to countries as far away as Hong Kong or South America. Management now understands that it is normal for companies to take their responsibilities within the community and for environmental concern to be shared by all citizens."

This assertion may well sound too optimistic. We found that changes in behaviour brought about by environmental concern, far from being taken for granted, are slow to catch on and are often experienced as a burden. They seem difficult to internalize in depth in the French cultural model shared by all the industry officials interviewed.

As demonstrated also by other polls and surveys, our investigation shows that while a majority of company managers are predictably still rather reluctant to support the environmentalist ideal , this is also the case for the management of large corporations, although they are far more involved in the issue than most small or medium-sized firms. Of course, ostensibly defensive statements of the type: "The pollution we cause is inevitable and might even be a good thing" have almost disappeared. But the sheer amount of literature devoted by industry to the expression of resentment vis-à-vis other social actors points to the dominance among industrial officials of a good conscience offended by undue criticism. This wounded identity shows through the surface of almost every sentence of all interviewees, even one who is planning an impressive set of measures for environmental protection and is conquering the Russian safety research market!

Finally, I believe that the fortunes of the next stage in the consideration by the managers of industry of environmental issues are dependent on the way in which they will solve the dilemma which the power of propaganda of the modern media faces them with. Either they will actively contribute to producing docile consumer-citizens incapable of saying "no" to a polluting product or avoiding a polluting use of the said product, or they will deliberately refrain from influencing public opinion and allow the building of responsible consumer behaviour. In the latter case, however, they will openly run the risk of facing negative reactions from their own employees, boycott, the counter-power of environmentalists or consumerists, and having to adapt to sudden changes in ways of living. Industry cannot but move towards more open civility. To quote the director of research of a chemical-pharmaceutical company, "I believe that the basic trend is towards more public-spirited firms". We all know with the case of steel, how the narcissistic designs of heavy industry came to an end. Industry is part of society, and we must be aware that we now have to negotiate our place in it, in the noblest sense."



Each one of the "three big" Unions in France (CGT, CGT-FO, and CFDT) has constituted, since the early eighties, national instances dealing with environmental and consumers' problems (Allan-Michaud 1982, Duclos, 1984). Each of them disposes of an "Environmental Commission", and each of them has promoted the creation (inside or outside the Union's structure) of a union-consumers' group, participating in the public "Institut National de la Consommation". But, beyond those -more or less empty- shells, we can state that actions undertaken by the French Unions in order to relate environmental questions to other workers' claims and protests, have been generally weak and seldom. If prices (for the popular consumer) have been frequently questionned, struggles for banning a product, improving a site's environment, etc.. have been so rare that they can be easily pointed out.

In short (Duclos, 1984), the CFDT has been active in the late seventies on nuclear problems, helping scientists to display significant defaults in the French electro-nuclear program. The CGT has been active in questionning work-related cancers in steel industry. Both Unions have supported local struggles for compensating workers suffering from asbestosis, or exposure to other toxical substances. The CGT (along with the Communist Party) has created a specific environmental mouvement (MNLE) which was not really substantial, but which somehow helped to raise the problem of illegal industrial or domestic waste disposals, noticeably in municipalities led by the Communist Party around Paris.

In the late eighties, these sporadic efforts decreased, in a more general context of Unions' weakening: severe loss of constituancy, crisis in the ideological frameworks, etc..(Haeusler and Gros, 1990).

By the same time, the industrial world was completely changing, the worst working conditions being suffered by temporary workers, most of them being not unionized, and not eager to announce to shop stewards small or even serious accidents. But even in a time when CFDT was officialy criticizing the "damages of progress", and was supporting environmentalist groups, it was uneasy to find out many examples of struggles having included environmental protection demands. On the contrary, most of the strikes focused on working conditions improvements, and disconnected inhouse and outside problems, a number of demonstrations being opposed to environmental approaches, still considered as directly antagonistic to workers' interests. Alternative products never emerged as significant demands (Harff ,1981), even when the "quality of production" developped as a permanent part of Unions programs.

Compared with other European Unions, the French movement has been severely struck by the economic and social crisis during the eighties ( Beaudouin and Alii, 1983, Bibes and Mouriaux, 1990). Like in United States, but for different reasons, the number of active unions members, already low, decreased even more, no organisation being spared by this desertion, above all among young workers (Capdevielle and alii, 1990). Mistrust against the Unions "bureaucrats" has developped in a widely shared feeling. New kinds of strikes have emerged (SNCF , Nurses of the public Hospital system,etc..), led by groups avoiding explicitly any obedience to official Unions. This trend appears to have slown down a little during the two last years, due to the charism of new and more aggressive leaders (like in Force Ouvrière), and to more tolerant behaviors among permanent militants. According to certain indications, reversal in recruitment tendencies might be expected. One condition for it could be that Unions would take some distance from political allegiance, which seems to fit with new "anti-political establishment" tendencies among young workers, as well as young environmentalists (Boy and Allan Michaud, 1989, Capdevielle, Meynaud and Mouriaux, 1990).

Meanwhile, coming to the Health-Safety question, Unions strategies have not formally changed their ways since the mid-eighties when former Minister of Work, Jean Auroux initiated a new pattern of industrial relations, including rights of debating qualitative aspects of work, and rights of alerting workers on hazardous situations and substances. In fact, Unions have become more institutionnalized parts of the control of production processes. We could even say that the most bureaucratized side of the safety job has been frequently devolved to Union representatives. At the same time, Unions have been much more mobilized by management to participate in renewal of operative processes, in the context of entirely new technologies (Domergue et alii, 1984). At the national level, the constituency crisis has been so deeply experienced that environmental topics have receded from a fairly important position in union newspapers, to a very modest one, compared to thematics such as unemployment, low skills, or wages. Besides, Environnement has never been seriously considered by the French Unions as a resource for new employments, and has been implicitly seen as a threat of unemployment, until very recently. One can say that before 1989 (the "year of the Earth") many union leaders at many levels still considered environmental issues as subordinate and potentially dangerous or ambiguous. Some of them really "discovered" its inescapable importance, along with the general public.

This is not to say that environmental issues have been of no real concern for Unions in France for many years. In dangerous industries, for example, Unions publications undoubtely fulfill a function of alarm. But this concern has not turned anymore to direct support to environnementalists, as it was the case for CFDT during the seventies. As a matter of fact, it seems that Environment has become an open cultural item, allowing everybody to denounce pollutions and nuisances, in a tone which is not very different from the tone used in managerial litterature. At the same time, it is much less probable to find in Unions writings, any statements criticizing products (car, etc) or proposing alternative improvements or choices, than some years ago. As if the new positions of management helped somehow the Unions not to take strong positions in those matters.


The CGT has long resisted to recognize the Environment as a simple fact. The biggest french trade-union has long prefered to use the strange expression “cadre de vie” (litterally: ‘ framework of life’). In fact, it is very clear that this term was used to tie up the environment with a number of other things such as : “ needs for housing, safety, health, culture, transportation, or leisure ”..In the road-making and construction sectors, the term “cadre de vie” was used to speak of “amenities”, and “facilities” as parts of the same “human needs”, ignoring their impacts on the natural richessnesses of the country. Lately, Environment has been discovered, provided “Man is put in the center of it, along with the satisfaction of his needs” . More practically, ecological terms as “physical milieu” have been used more and more frequently, mainly hinting at the cleanliness of the industrial site. But Environment (which was, for a time, used in the managerial sense of “social environment”) was in the middle of the eighties still subject to a “desperate” attempt by the CGT to change or restrain its meaning . For example, the notion of “industrial environment” was raised by the CGT secretary, L.Brovelli, for denying the specificity of outside environment . The “industrial environment” was proposed as a key word, permitting the unions activists to “retarget” environmental issues as if they were “enlarged occupational health issues” . This was especially the case for campaigns on noise at work, or environmental cancer.

Nevertheless, in 1988, the CGT slowly moved forward : the environment was at last aknowledged as a specific problem. But, as usual, this formal aknowledgment was accompanied by many restrictive considerations, and the main solutions were still phrased in terms of institutionnal control. The ‘workers’ information and participation’ theme came in voice timorously . For example , L. Brovelli asked for “ a more important place for workers in the institutions which have to know environment questions, as the Agences de bassin” . She wished for an “obligation to consult the workers on the whole set of questions concerning the prevention of pollutions and risks, in the “Installations classées”. But, at the same time, the DRIR Inspecteurs should be much more numerous (She proposed the doubling of their number).

When the environmental concern has resisted new constructions, the CGT approach has indefectibly been on the side of the industrial production. Thus, The CGT has called (in opposition to most of the Environmental movements) to support the construction of dams on the River Loire , or near Chambonchard (Montluçon Bassin), or to support the maintenance of the Hydro-Electric plant of Saint Chamas (on the Durance.) Preservation of water supplies was the main argument in favor of those positions.

The CGT “consumers organization” (INDECOSA-CGT) has always favoured the Economic Growth, and the increase of popular means of consumption. This organization never departed from a very simple line : there are no false needs, and the betterment of production means first a betterment in the quality of the products , which, on its turns, appeals to more technical research. This “productivist” position never changed in 15 years, even if recent texts are calling for “clean technologies” .

The CGT is also officially a member of the MNLE (Mouvement national de lutte pour l’environnement) which was created in 1981, by communist activists, who share the same “productivist values”, but who have indeed developped a acute sensitivity to domestic waste issues (due to the hard job their deputies, mayors and town councellors must carry on, in very polluted urban areas).

In most cases, when environmental issues are directly adressed by the CGT activists at the branch or local levels, it can be explained by some kind of related interest, in terms of economic growth or industrial production, which might be expected from environmental claims : for example, in 1990, severe droughts in France were pointed out by the Water management industry trades unions, as strong incentives for improving water quality by the way of new techniques . De-polluting, rather than no pollution..As F. Combrouze, member of the CGT “Cadre de vie” sector put it : “the answer is in the obstinate struggle for demanding investments in purification systems” . Demands for a “better economic and ecologic efficiency” must go along the same path . The maintenance of skilled positions and the development of investements (aimed to reduce the quantity and charge of pollutants in waters) are supposed to act in concert. On the contrary, precarious jobs, low wages, disappearance of collective guarantees, are presented as the main factors of risk and accidental pollutions.

Many examples of this “weltanschauung” can be displayed :

Thus, the risk issue has been raised by the CGT Railway workers, arguing that the transportation of hazardous substances by road was much more perilous than by train : it was a argument for keeping open many tracks and stations (thus, many employments and skills), which are to be closed down by a management who tends to prefer a few TGV lines, than many other traditional facilities.

Facing Acid Rains, the CGT has favored a “catalytic converter” solution, arguing that our country had good public and private companies capable of producing such a facility with reduced costs . More broadly, the CGT has developped an official position favouring the “clean car” : severe standards would be supported in terms of speed limitation, catalytic converters on large and small cars, (the European recommandations are supported) lead free gasoline, etc. The “dependency” of the French industry (for catalytic converters production) is criticized and the PDG of Peugeot, J.Calvet (as opposing a new “clean engine” to the catalytic converter) is blamed for utopistic views and resisting quick and necessary improvements. But, of course, all those positions are undertaken with the premises that “Car is a social need” and that “the car industry is the spinal bone of our economy”.

On the industrial waste disposal problems, the CGT has often supported local struggles against ground or underground disposals, and has favoured industrial solutions such as burning, and recycling. Besides, the CGT claims to forbid waste imports from foreign countries. The Waste problem has probably emerged as one of the few items on which the CGT called for cooperation with other actors such as Industrialists (GECOM, etc.) and municipalities.

About the big forest fires, the CGT demands more men in public forestry (ONF) and in fire departments : against precarious jobs, they want more permanent positions. The The CGT also asks for acknowledging at the same time the “ecological function” and the “industrial function” of the french forests. By the way, The CGT promotes the replacement of old Fokker and Canadair water “bombers”, by a “new french adapted” Transall.

In some circumstances, internal bargaining have been developped, in order to stop or to modify an industrial project which was considered as very problematic in terms of environment protection. This was the case for an EDF (Electricité de France) project of artificial bed for the River Romanche, which happened to destroy the natural course of a river, richly sowed with trouts.. : but, at the end of a large discussion process, the project was finally accepted, under certain “rhetoric conditions”. Far from being a real alternative questionning, the democratic inter-unions process was just utilized as a mean for EDF to pass its project without any real opposition in the regional working milieu. The CGT “cadre de vie” mediation, was used, one more time, as a“Troy Horse” (helping the industrialist’s side to win).

Another recent exemple is the resistance of CGT facing the project of a new Highway in Le Havre (barreau de raccordement A 29), not because of its ecological impact....but for the reason that it might endanger the industrial zone.

When I interviewed some Union representatives, responsible for environmental issues, they complained that the “real CGT’s positions were not understood by the public”. But looking at the types of positions we displayed, it is not very surprising. Let say that it is only since 1990, that the CGT has initiated a quicker move in the direction of stronger positions on the environment, in terms of relatively independant assumptions from the heavy ideologically encapsulated “productivist” position. For example, The Centre Confédéral d’Etudes Economiques et Sociales states that the good results of air pollution control in France are very fragile, and somehow non significant , because they are mainly due to the electro-nuclear part of the energy production, and not to the desulfurization techniques. It is thus stated that OECD Datas on the anti-pollution investments show very clearly that France and Netherland have lowered significantly their effort, falling in the middle of the eighties to 85% of the 1980 level, whereas Japan or Germany , even with a decreasing trend, are still around 130% . The analyst admits that, when the fuel and coal plants are taking a little bit more of the global production, pollution score are going up again very rapidly. He also considers the very bad effects of the growth of road transportation . But, he finally states that the “struggle against airborne pollution must operate as an industrializing force”, which means in fact : no “carbon tax”, and “yes’ to a strategic developpment of electro-nuclear energy; A 100 Gigawatt programm is therefore proposed for the Northern Europe as a mean for a 27% decrease of CO2 growth.

The positions of CGT about the management of Water in France is undoubltly articulated. In the note économique n° 33, (juin 1990) it is recalled that with a double water resource per capita compared with Germany or England (4000m3, England : 2200 M3, Germany 2600 m3), The french depollution ratio is half (35%) of the german effort (70%).

This is considered by the CGT analyst as scandalous, because the french ‘savoir faire’ in the matter is very high, and utilized in foreign countries by french Water supplies companies. Here, the CGT analyst criticizes the intensive agriculture policy pushed on by the EEC, and the Water consuming maïze politics (70% of the irrigated lands).

In a CGT journal adressed to executives, (‘Options’), a special issue was recently dedicated to the global environment (N°30 : “Où va la terre?”). For the first time, real and deep questions have been raised by the Union journalists who interviewed Mrs Gro Brundtland, some Environmentalists and some prominent scientists, without any restrictive prejugés .

The CGT and the Plant level.

Regarding the role of plant joint committees (CHSCT) , the CGT demands are the following:

-The C.E (comité d’Entreprise, the CHSCT being a specialized part of it) must be consulted about taxes on water and sanitary dues by industry to the “Agences financières de Bassin). The CE must be informed on the utilisation of those funds by the AFB. THe CE must have official Access to datas on type, quality and control of waste disposal in environment. The CE must be informed of the threshold values which have been authorised, and on the respect of these values by the mangements.
-The Unions must claim the right to inform simultaneously the workers and the population who have common interests in the field of safety and health.
-The Unions must cooperate : local Unions must facilitate transfers of information from sewer systems workers’ unions to industrial sectors.
-They must emphasize the democratic procedures which were necessary to harmonize very divergent opinions among the unionists, above all at the plant level.


In the CFDT, one tends to think of one’s fellow activists as “actual or potential” members of the environmentalist movement in France, distinguishing them from “politicians who have freshly painted themselves in green”.

Indeed, there “has been” a living tradition on environmental sensitivity in the CFDT, even if some “backlash” has accompanied the changing socialist politics in the mid-eighties, banning all radical discourses, and adopting a much lower profile on those topics. A Working Group on Environment (which was previously named “commission on environment”) exists for several years in the CFDT at the national level. Thus far focused on industrial impacts, the activity has recently been re-enlarged , including various items such as : “natural space, urbanzation, technological innovation, economic instruments, a global policy on environment.”

The CFDT has developped international relations on that topic, notably with the DGB, (a common session was organized by both unions in march 1990, analysing the Unions environmental politics). Some relationships have also been set up with Italian unions. The CFDT is represented at the two commitees Energy and Environment in the CES .

With more speed than the CGT (of which most of the environmental opinions have been frozen for long in productivist defense and fossilised corporative discourses) The CFDT may draw from its own militant past, some positions going straight to the spot : the environment has a distinct existence from specific risk issues related to industrial sites. The global issues are at least as important as the local ones, and must be addressed in global terms by the Union movement. The CFDT must express positions on every ecosystemic threats, independently from corporate industrial considerations. This union goes on analysing our global way of development and its consequences, like the amount of consumed energy, airborne pollution, and also chronic trafficjams, urban spaces congestions, etc. It is stated that our model of development cannot be directly extended to third world countries, where it is only used to make megalopoles dependent, bigger and more unhuman. The CFDT admits that we cannot wait for “scientific certainties” before coming to the political decisions in those matters.

The ‘turning green’ of the industrialists, is nevertheless analysed with a touch of scepticism : indeed, industrial ecologism may be used as a protective weapon against foreign industries, which is to be criticized, as well as the “eco-publicity” which is not based (as in the Phosphates versus non phosphates washing powders ) on a real question : all kinds of washing are polluting the rivers, with or without phosphates !

The CFDT acknowledges the fact that the German Industrialists have , first among the Europeans, (and probably pushed by a strong environmental movement) understood that the environment is an opportunity for the Economy. The CFDT supports the DGB’s proposal to help the equipment of small cars with catalytic converters (for poor families owning one small car . The CFDT shares with the author of the present report the statement that the french industry still consider the environmental issue as a regulatory constraint, or as an heroic effort, much more than a positive and profitable incentive.The CFDT criticizes both the ‘French Managers’ culture’ and the Industrial Strategy : both factors contribute to restrain industrialists from accepting the Environment as a part of the normal economic activity.

Regarding the general institutions, the CFDT has obviously more ambitious proposals than the CGT has. But, it also comes with a certain ambiguity in its position, somehow tightly related with the politics of the Socialist Party and those of the Ministry of Environnment, held by Brice Lalonde. For example, the CFDT is supporting the “technocratic” project of reunifying several environmental agences (like ANRED, AFME, AQA, AFB), without any criticism of the fact that one practical output of this merging will be to create a position of power for some Ingénieurs des Mines, and some Finance managers.

-The CFDT claims the extension of the principle “the Polluter Pays” to “other categories” that is to say to farmers (who wer found to be big water polluters), and at the same time the adaptation of the level of taxes according to the polluters individual liability, and solvability.

- Whereas the CGT says nothing about ecological labelization for products, The CFDT claims the setting up of a “Green Label” which would include a standard taking in account the whole manufacturing process of the product : including material and energy saving. The CFDT is supporting the European Label project, which will be attributed to products which respect the environment from “cradle to grave”. The Jury will be composed with members nominated by the gorvernments, and by corporate , unions and movements representatives, who will establish their judgment on the basis of
european standardized technical documentation.

The CFDT assumes that Ecology is employment inducing : reducing pollutions, healing the Forests, sustaining the natural resources (for agriculture, leisure and tourism), all those desirable obectives suppose that we create specific and durable employment. New needs of Developped and Developping countries in terms of Clean technologies will support a continuous enlargment of a “Green Market”. Under ther present conditions, the CFDT recalls that 30% of products and processes are disappearing, due to bad environmental impacts.

The CFDT takes a note of the global threats, about which the CGT has no clear position, and therefore admits the necessity of reducing CO2 emissions. It assumes that the very rapid growth of road transportation has been responsible for half of the problem. The CFDT takes position against the international management of hazardous waste, which seems to transfer the problem to the developing countries, as a way of reducing the burden of their debt. A strong international legal framework would be the only solution to stop this disastrous trend.

Yet, The CFDT puts us on our guard against the “environmental dictatorship” which could emerge from a dramatic emphazise on ecological catastrophies , if in the meantime, the democratic framework of our political systems has been left out of consideration . Science cannot solve every problem, and we have to take our political responsibilities.

At last, the CFDT supports the governmental “Plan National pour l’Environnement” (Jne 1990) which severly criticizes the environmental politics for the last twenty years, which has not been able to stop the continuous degradation of the natural spaces and milieux. The CFDT supports the Eight Principles of Action of the PNE (see page ).

The CFDT and the site level.

The CFDT also asks for an “extension of the missions of the CHSCT to environmental issues”, and demands that the so-called “Lois Auroux” (laws regulating the workers’ rights of participating). The CFDT unionists state that “every specialist shares this point of view and even the State Inspectors (DRIR) support their demands on that matter. The main question which is raised is that the Environment will be, sooner or later, internalized in the economic results of industry. The CFDT also claims that the plant management elaborates an “Ecological assessment” to be debated by social actors. This assessment is supposed to become the main instrument for a CHSCT union politics in the future, notably in helping the representatives to have some control over the standard procedures; and to propose preventive strategies.



Something like an environmental "chorus" seems to be now at work in France. Everybody claims to be an environmentalist: Managers, Administrators, Unions, Workers, Citizen. New political perspectives ( votes expectations) have somehow “boosted” -very recently- new legal and administratives decisions. Drastic changes have been introduced with the Governmental PNE, of which many instructions are now passing in the legal machinery. The New European context is certainly helping to adjust a number of national peculiarities, and voices from other countries are now more easily heard than before.

Of course, this phenomenon is somehow ambiguous : managers and administrators plead in favor of purely technical and regulatory specific improvements, which could take place in the existing framework of industrial and social relations. Unions go along the same paths, with some stress on health at work, but attend reforms in a rather passive way. Their internal difficulties have had some impacts in terms of memory, intellectual fitness, capacity of quick reactions and ambitious proposals. For example, the CFDT has certainly been more “influenced” by the DGB in those matters, than reversedly, despite its own “environmentalist” past. Workers, on their side, still avoid any direct and organized expression of their sympathy to environmentalism, and seem to be tantalized by authoritarian and even xenophobic messages . Citizen, when asked, declare they are still not ready to change their habits in consumption or transportation, even when politicians begin to criticize the car “overkilling” the urban centres.

The main point is elsewere: it lays perhaps in the fact that young people (urban as well as rural) are more and more relating anti-establishment and pro-environmental positions, this political profile being like this of environmentalists themselves. The continuous growth of Environmentalist votes expectations in polls, despite the repeated attempts to depreciate the “Green” Political Parties is a significant clue to some important change in the popular culture in France. We are perhaps attending the premises of a new social identity based -at work as in civilian life- on strong mistrust in unilateral technocratic solutions, because workers as well as environmentalists have now experienced for long, that those solutions are usually generating more problems (unemployment, massive destruction of resources), than they can solve. The whole question is to know whether or not the social partners will be capable of taking charge of those new positions, which are, at the moment, more implicit than fully developped. The Industrialists, because they are still reluctant to consider the environment both as a necessary path for yield, and as a matter of democratic interaction with consumers, citizen and workers. The Unions, because they have so frequently been reduced in France to corporative sects, closed on their narrow status interests. The main risk is that Young people, being frequently excluded from permanent employments, will simply not become members of the Unions. In that case, would the new Unions’ environmental rights (notably the CHSCT extended services) be of any use.. if the french Unions simply disappear from many places of the economic life ?

In any case, a more open framework in industrial relations may allow workers -whether they belong to traditional trade unions or not- to enrich a global environment management with their knowledge, experience, aspirations and opinions.



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1. Employers’ structures and organisations.
R. Bizec, Directeur à l'Environnement, Usinor-Sacilor, Immeuble Ile de France, Cédex 33, 92O70 Paris la défense.
Entreprise et Progrès, 34 Avenue Marceau, 75004 Paris.
M. Grou-Radenez, Directeur Environnement, ATOCHEM, Tour ATO, La défense 10, Paris La Défense.
M. Jourdan, directeur des affaires techniques, CEFIC, 250 Avenue Louise, Bruxelles
Pierrette Larivaille, EDF (pbs environnement), Direction générale 26 rue de la baume , Paris, 75008.
Patrick Nollet, Commission Environnement, CNPF, 31 av Pierre Premier de Serbie, 75016 Paris.
M. Pecqueur, Commission Environnement, CNPF, 31 av Pierre Premier de Serbie, 75016 Paris
Jean Raguin LECES, Immeuble Elysées, 19 le Parvis-cedex 35,
,92072 Paris la défense.
H. Rousseau, Institut de l 'Entreprise, 6 rue Clément Marot, 75008 Paris.
Pierre Tanguy, Président de l'Institut Européen de Cindyniques, 12 rue de l'Orne, 78200 Mantes la Ville.
Bernard Tramier, Directeur du CIRN, Elf Aquitaine, tour Elf, 2 place Coupole, La Défense 6 cedex 45, 92078 Paris La défense.

Trade Unions.

F. Combrouze, CGT, commission Environnement, 263 rue de Paris, 93100 Montreuil.
J. Moulin, (idem).
CGT Indecosa, 263 rue de Paris, 93100 Montreuil.
CGT-Force Ouvrière, Commission Environnement,
198 Avenue du Maine, 75014 Paris.
Pierre Bobe, Commission Environnement
CFDT, 26 rue Montholon 75009 Paris.
Jacques Fournier, Commission Environnement, CFDT
26 rue Montholon 75009 Paris.
“CFDT-Vie en société”. La Villette, 75955 Paris cedex 19.
Roland Lagarde, CFDT EDF, 33 avenue Jean Jaurès, 91420 Morangis.

Scientific and ecological research institutes.

M. Le Directeur de l'ANRED (agence nationale pour la récupération des déchets)
2 square Lafayette bP 406, 49004 Angers Cedex.
Yvon Chich, INRETS (institut national de recherche sur les transports), 2 avenue Général Malleret-Joinville, 94 Arcueil.
Marcel Jollivet, Professeur, "environnement et société", Groupe de recherches Sociologiques, Bât G, Université Paris X, 200 avenue de la république, 92001 Nanterre cedex.
INERIS : Institut national de l’environnement industriel et des risques, 9 rue de Rocroy, 75010 Paris.
Thierry Lavoux, Institut pour une Politique Européenne de l'Environnement, 55 rue de Varennes 75007 Paris.
Jean-Claude Lefeuvre, LRPFE, Université de rennes I, Avenue du gl Leclerc
35042 Rennes.
JeanMarie Legay, Laboratoire de Biométrie, Université de Lyon II
43 bd du 11 Novembre, 69622 Villeurbanne cedex.
Jean Baptise Lesourd, EHESS, 2rue de la Charité, 13002 Marseille .
Dominique Moyen, Ingénieur Général des Mines, Directeur Général de l'INRS, 30 Rue Olivier Noyer, 75014 Paris.
René Passet, CEDERS, faculté de sciences économiques, 14 avenue Jules Ferry
13621 Aix en Provence.
P Alphandery, INRA (institut national de la recherche agronomique), Paris
6 passage Tenaille, 75014 Paris.
Denis Duclos, Philippe Roqueplo, SORISTEC-CNRS, 16 rue Moreau, 75012 Paris.
Yves Dupont, Université de Caen,13 rue des croisiers 14000 Caen.
JP. Noel, mme Faucheux, centre économie espace environnement, Université de ParisI,
90 rue de Tolbiac ,75634 Paris cedex 13.
Michel Turpin, Directeur du CERCHAR, 39-43 quai A. Citröen
, 75015 Paris.
M.G. Vuillard, direction de la sécurité et de, l'Environnement,
Rhône Poulenc, 25 quai Paul Doumer, 92400 Courbevoie.

Political and administrative structures.

Bernard Barraqué, Ministère de l'Equipement, DRI,
séminaire; "évaluation des politiques publiques de l'environnement",
74 rue de la Fédération, 75015 Paris.
Gérard Clouet, DRAE Basse Normandie, 1 bis rue Leroy, 14037 Caen, 31444500 Cedex.
Dominique Coujar, M. Shapira, Collège de la Prévention des risques technologiques
39-43 quai A. Citröen, 75015 Paris.
M. Demarcq, Direction de la prévention des pollutions, ministère de l'Environnement
14 bd du gl leclerc, 92524 Neuilly s/seine cedex.
Régine Losli-Surrans, Commission pour la sécurité des consommateurs, 3 rue Blanche, 75009 Paris
Jacques Theys, Groupe de Prospective du ministère de l'Environnement,
74 rue de la Fédération, 75015 Paris.

Environmentalist Movements.

Pascal Acot, MNLE, 106 Avenue Jean Lolive, Pantin.
Jean Paul Deléage, “Les Verts”, 67 av Danielle Casanova, 94000 Ivry.
Christian Garnier, France-Nature-Environnement, 37 rue Raymond Losserand, 75014Paris.
Patrice Mirand, "les Verts", 13 passage jean Nicot, 75007 Paris.
Pierre Samuel, Les Amis de la terre, 15 rue Gambey, 75011 Paris.

State of National Regulations of the Environment A “unified group” of environmental Laws exists. date : July 1976.
title : -Loi sur la protection de la Nature. (Law on the protection of the Nature.)
a new central body of laws is passed in 1991 : the Plan National for the Environment (PNE)
The Ministry of Environment was established in 1971.
There is a consultation body : Haut Comité de l’Environnement (1972)
There was no public centralized research body up to this point. (but a lot of specialized research centres : INRA (Agriculture), CEMAGREF (Forestry), IFREMER (sea), ORSTOM (developping countries ecology), Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle (ecology), more than 40 laboratories in the CNRS plus the PIREN (Programme interdisciplinaire de recherches sur l’environnement naturel).
The “National Plan for Environment” (PNE) decided the creation of such a research centre : officially created in 1991, The IFE (Institut Français de l’Environnement) will be settled in Orléans. It will be mainly in charge of collecting and producting Statistical datas on the environmental situation in the Country.
Public pressure
1974 : first “ecologist” candidate for the presidential election : R.Dumont collected 337.000 votes.
1978 : town councils elections : diverse environmental groups make an average score of 4%. In the eighties, those score go down, then there is a strong come back in the nineties.
Presidential elections in 1981 : B. Lalonde obtains : 3.8% .
A National “Green Party” is existing . It was founded in 1984, unifying many groups.
European elections in 1984 : the “ecologist list”, led by D. Anger obtains : 3.37%
At the last presidential elections, in 1988, A Waechter (the Greens’ president) obtained : 3.78%.
In the European Elections, in 1988, The Greens obtained 10.5 %
In the current polls (1991), the Green Party obtains 8-10%
and its challenger (created by B. Lalonde) “Génération écologie” : 4-6%
Both parties totalize : 15% of the expectations.
beside the vote expectations, the rank of the environment in the polls can be established in different ways, but the tendency is about the same :
CREDOC 1989 : Environment has the 8th rank (after serious illnesses, violence, unemployment, drug, road accidents, poverty in the world and in France). The question is : a higher rank would it be really significant of a a better approach ? poverty, for example, could be considered as a part of the environmental concern ...On the other hand, the polls merge different kinds of perceptions (individual and collective risks.)
CREDOC 1989 : Among the environmental priorities, the French put the emphasis on Air and Water (52%), toxical waste management (30%), nuclear risk prevention (28%). 51% say they are “embarrassed” with car traffic.
CSA-Ministère de l’Environnement (June 1990) : 64% of the French would be ready to pay more taxes, especially if implemented in the betterment of the environment.
Negociation of environmental laws and their control
Participation in preparing new laws :
employers associations : yes. mainly the CNPF institutions : HCE; CSPRP; Conseil économique et social; commissions ad hoc de l’Assemblée Nationale.
trade unions ; yes. CGT, CFDT, FO, CGC, FNSEA, Jeunes Agriculteurs, etc. Institutions : idem
Citizens : not directly. Public interests groups : yes in CDH, and in municipal commissions. Deputies : yes. notably in the OPECT (Office parlementaire de l’évaluation des choix technologiques). A group of Deputies can mobilize expertise and some specific research on problems posed by new technologies.
Control Institutions outside the company. yes : administrative control : DRIRE, DIREN, DRAE, CNAMTS (CTN et CTR), Inspection du Travail, CDH, CSSIN, a number of governmental commissions, colleges, etc....
Scientific and technological control: INERIS, SCSIN, etc.
Financial control and tax collecting on environment : Agences de Bassin, AQA, AFME, AEME, ANRED.
inside the company. yes : Safety departments, CE, CHSCT. In some cases : environmental departments (like in Elf-ERAP).
Special employers responsibility. yes : POI, PPI , Environmental assessment, Risk assessment (Seveso instructions), liability from “cradle to grave” (for toxic substances and toxic waste).
“independent” environmental officers : no.
“independent” expertise : yes. (research groups testing radiation levels, etc.)
Inclusion of workers and union representatives : yes. CNAMTS (CTN, CTR), CSPRP, CDH, CE, CHSCT. Especially about occupational health risks.

Industrial relations regulations.Is “environment officialy mentionned in Industrial relations regulations ? No (until now : laws on preparation, in the context of environmental regulations.)
Are there any proposals to enlarge existing Industrial relation regulations to environmental matters ? : yes.
by whom ?: unions (CFDT, CGT). Government : recently by Brice Lalonde’s cabinet (in the PNE).
which regulations ? : extending the intervention area of CE and CHSCT to environnmental issues . which means : rights for workers and unions representatives to give advices about environmental impacts of industrial activity. Participation in the mandatory Environmental Assessment by the management .
Unions’ other demand : participating in the new Collège Supérieur de l’Environnement.
Voluntary cooperative environmental initatives of the social partners :
-unions and the ministry of environment are going on the same tracks, at least in the PNE, where many of the unions demands are taken in account.
-In the inter-corporate debates on waste management and recycling, there are good examples of Unions-Management associations discussions to find out a general solution (for urban collecting, for example or glass recycling). for ins. : GECOM.
several examples of management/unions agreements in the context of “quality circles” : but they include the environment as a part of a whole, and not as specific items.
Actual voluntary unilateral environmental initiatives by employers .
national : the PDG of BSN (Riboud) proposed to set up a national domestic waste recycling system, including a new waste collecting facility at the family level.
a number of collecting and recycling campaigns : PELICAN, POUBELLE BLEUE.
Diverse industrial networks : ECOPER (chlorinated solvants recycling network), ERRA (European Recovery and Recycling Association), etc.
Branch : a common campaign of french car builders on the Electric vehicle, and on the “clean engine car”. PSA (Peugot) invests in the electric car in order to produce 50.000 electrical vehicles in 1995.
CETIM (centre technique des industries mécaniques) developped a long research effort in noise reduction (in products).
GESIP : groupe d’étude de sécurité de l’industrie pétrolière. (Oil companies safety research group). Exists since 1953 and is focused on reducing major accidental risks in refineries.
The Cement Industry (third european producer) tried to reduce air pollution by dust : 2% in 1950, 0,02% in 1989. Invests 12% of the cost of a plant in cleaning dust. 24% energy saving from 1970 to 1989. (dry process)
A number of industrialists intervening in the packing processes (GECOM, etc..) are working together with other sectors to propose new “returning” systems.
company, firm : Michelin proposal to collect and recycle used tyres
ATOCHEM choice for new technologies which eradicates most of waste : Hydrazine : 100% waste eradication. Methacrylate de Méthyle : 90% eradication. Chlorométhane : 90%. ATOCHEM incinerates most of halogenic compounds.
Rhone Poulenc elaborating an “ environmental assessment” standardized procedure.
Rhone Poulenc internal educational program in the field of environment : PRISE.
Monoprix proposing its own “green label” and allowing the Green militants to distribute leaflets in its shops.
CEBAL (packaging sector of PECHINEY), (cash flow : 5 billions francs, 27 plants in the world) invested 32 millions francs to reduce air pollution in three sites (painting wastes)
CMB Packaging (thermoshaped packaging, invested 10% of its cf for replacing CFC.
PECHINEY-Air Industrie : reduced by 98% the fluor emission in the electrolytic process of aluminium production.
USINOR-SACILOR ( second steel producer in the world) set a “depollution plan” which divides by two in three years the airborne particle pollution level in Dunkerque, Fos Marseille. Invest in 1990 500 millions F. for reducing SO2 (4% of the french emissions), and NOX (2% of the french emissions).
Degree of cooperation of the social partners on environmental issues (*)
in general national level branch level company level
non issue x
general cooperation (passive)
mostly cooperative (in some sectors)
very differing
mostly negative
conflict avoidance x
agreement to “do nothing” x x
(*) it has been difficult for me to fill up this board, because it is biased : it is implicitly supposed that there is only a “positive cooperation” in environmental concern as opposed to conflict (the word “negative” on the fifth line meaning precisely conflict). But, in the french case, (and I suppose in many others), there is a cooperation between management and unions not to do anything in environmental terms : this is not a “conflict avoidance”, but a real connivence, a common and tacit purpose. In fact, if there is any field where Unions and Managers seem to agree (at a deep and untold level), it is about productivism!. This board does not permit to evoke this truth, unless we add another category like : agreement to restrain environmental concern.Another problematic point : who is a “social partner” ?. In France, we can assume that the State itself is a social partner as far as it is a part of “technical joint committees” in charge of education and research along with the Industrialists.. and in many other configurations. The “Chambres du Commerce et de l’industrie” as well as the “Chambres du travail” are examples of “hybrid organisms” which are really difficult to define as purely “state controlled”.

DASH-BOARD on Industrial pollution (and pollution reduction) in France and some Other Countries.

France Germany U.K USA
Total air pollution (traditional pollutions) OECD sources..................
S02 .1980-86: -55% -29% -20% -12%
Airborne particles. (80-86) -26% -20% -7% -20%
NOX (80-86) -12% +O,1% -2% -5%
NOX (local emissions(80-86) -39% -14% -8% -3%
(Kilo/per PIB unit
(1000US$, 1989) CO2 182 294 317 324
SOX 2,3 1,9 7,0 4,7
NOX 3,1 4,3 4,9 4,5
Emissions per capita 1989
CO2 (Tons) 1,8 3,2 2,9 5,8
SOX(kilos) 22,8 21,3 63,1 84,0
NOX 31,6 46,7 44,0 80,4
“acid” emissions in 1987,
SO2(1OOO T/year) 1520 2044 3680
NO2 (1000T/year) 1605 2931 2429
Water use in 1989 (M3/capita) 774 722 262 (?) 1896
bathing waters quality (EEC source). % of score in conformity with EEC instructions
soft waters 75,6(1700 loc.)70(10 locations)
sea waters 83,3(1700 loc.)100,00 (5 locations)
surface waters pollutions (Rhine-Mosel example) Source: Agence de Bassin Rhin-Meuse
Substance/Kg/year/ % of all polluters contributions (RFA,F, Lux., Switz.,Netherlands.)
Chloronitrobenzène 66% 25%
Trichloréthane 52% 43%
Dichloréthane 87% 9%
Plomb (Lead) 9% 70%
Tetrachlorure 1% 97%
Chloroform 8% 89%
PCB 28% 71%
Phosphore 13% 53%
Mercury 9% 60%
Perchlorethylène 2% 88%
Trichlorobenzène 4% 90%
Hexachlorobutadiene O% 90%
Pentachlorophenol 43% 52%
Chrome 12% 74%
Copper 15% 64%
Nickel 9% 82%
Zinc 8% 78%
AOX 25% 63%
% of people connected to a purification settlement in 1989 (OECD Source),
52% 90% 84%
cost for a urban purification unit in 1990. (100% in Germany) (Source OTV)
50% 100%
Industrial Waste production per capita in 1989, OCDE sources (by PIB unit)
89 95 97
Domestic waste production per capita in 1989 (OCDE sources) (kg per capita)
304 331 353 (only England+wales)
% of sulfur recycled in the Oil processing (source Institut Français du pétrole) in 1987
43% 39% 39%
% of plastic consumption by the Industry (1989); Source : IPAD kg per capita
64 131 61 108
Investments in vacuum cleaning and purification in gaz industries 1990 (UNICLIMA)
total investments (F.millions) 1.000 14.000 2.600
Water prices in 1989 (English pence by M3)
45 72 39 27
% of paper recycling (1989) 34,4 43,0 30,4 32,8
% of Glass recycling (1987) 26,0 37,0 13,0 8,0 (1985)
Direct Research public expenditures in “environment” (Millions of ECUS 1989) Source : IPEE
386.74 762.73 232.62

List of Abbreviations.
AEME : Agence de l’Environnement et de la maîtrise de l’énergie.
AFME : Agence Française pour lamaîtrise de l’énergie.
ANRED : Agence Nationale pour la revalorisation et l’élimination des déchets.
AQA : Agence pour la qualité de l’Air.
CDH : Conseil départemental d’Hygiène.
CE : Comités d’Entreprise.
CETIM : centre d’études techniques de l’industrie mécanique.
CFDT (confédération française démocratique du travail)
CGC : Confédération générale des cadres.
CGT : Confédération générale du travail.
CGT-FO : Force Ouvrière.
CHSCT : Comité d'Hygiène, de Sécurité et des conditions de travail.
CNAMTS : Caisse Nationale Maladie des travailleurs salariés" (Sécurité Sociale)
CNPF : Conseil National du Patronat Français.
CNRS : Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.
CPRT : Collège pour la Prévention des risques technologiques.
CSIC : Conseil supérieur des installations classées.
CSPRP : Conseil Supérieur de la Prévention des risques professionnels.
CSSIN : conseil supérieur pour la sûreté des installations nucléaires.
CTN : Comités techniques nationaux (de la Sécurité sociale).
CTR : Comités techniques régionaux (de la sécurité sociale).
DIREN : Directions régionales de l’environnement .
DRAE : Directions régionales de l’architecture et de l’équipement.
DRIRE : Directions régionales de la Recherche, de l’industrie et de l’Environnement.
EDF : électricité de France.
GECOM (Groupe d'Etude pour le Conditionnement Moderne)
GESIP : groupe d’étude de sécurité de l’industrie pétrolière.
ERRA (European Recovery and Recycling Association)
IFE : Institut Français de l’Environnement.
IFREMER : Institut français d’études sur la Mer.
INEIRIS : Institut National de l’Environnement industriel et des risques.
INRA : Institut National de la Recherche en Agronomie CEMAGREF : Centre d’études sur la montagne, l’agriculture et la forêt.
IPEE : Institut pour une politique européenne de l’environnement.
ONF : Office National des Forêts.
OPECT : Office Parlementaire d’évaluation des choix technologiques.
ORSTOM : Office de rercherche sur les territoires d’outre-mer.
PIREN : Programme interdisciplinaire de recherches sur l’environnement naturel, in the CNRS.
PNE : Plan National pour l’Environnement.
POI : Plan d’opérations internes.
PPI : Plan particulier d’intervention.
SCSIN : service central de sûreté des installations nucléaires.
SORISTEC : Sociétés et risques technologiques (CNRS)
TGV : train à grande vitesse. (high speed train).
TVE : Taxe sur la valeur écologique.

Table of Contents

Introduction : Industrial culture and the environment in France. 3
-Industry and Environment : a “soft conflict” context. 3
Public opinion facing industrial impacts on environment : an increasing concern... still without any precise claims. 3
The “Authoritarian and technocratic temptation”. 4
Historical backgrounds. 6
Basic national structures and laws , before 1991. 7
2. industrial sectors. 8
3.Industrial sites level 9
Main changes occured in 1990-1991. 10
French Management and the environment . 13
1. an overview 13
2. The Environment as an 14
“industrial relation” issue : 14
going “green” : yes. 14
debating environment with unions : why ?. 14
A long-standing concern ? 14
A recent conversion . 16
Why are the Industrialists changing ? 18
The cultural forces at work 19
A cultural change underway 22
An inescapable ethical change 24
Industrial civility is hard to achieve 24
PART III. Unions strategies and the environment: a low intensity problem 26
1. Unions and workers perceptions during the seventies and the eighties. 26
2. The CGT and the environment. 28
The CGT and the Plant level. 30
3. The CFDT and the environment. 32
The CFDT and the site level. 33
Conclusions and perspectives . 34
1.Bibliography 35
2. List of contacts. 37
1. Employers’ structures and organisations. 37
Trade Unions. 38
Scientific and ecological research institutes. 38
Political and administrative structures. 38
Environmentalist Movements. 39
3. “Dash-Board” on Industrial relations and the Environment in France. 39
List of Abbreviations............................................................................................................43

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Commander des livres de Denis Duclos (études et essais) | Commander des Romans de Denis Duclos / Order Novels by D.Duclos | Introduction aux sujets principaux/ Introduction to key topics | éléments pour une géo-anthropologie (geo-anthropology) | Théorie de la pluralité/Pluralist Theory | Séminaire " PLURALITE OU DYSTOPIE " (Présent et avenirs alternatifs de la société-monde) | Séminaire "Société-monde" de Comberouger | Eléments du séminaire anthropologie analytique/géoanthropologie (2000-2008) | L'actualité en anthropologie de la société-monde / updates on the anthropology of world-society | Géopolitique et géostratégie | Origines et dynamiques des cultures / origins and dynamics of cultures | Les conversations entre cultures / conversations between cultures | Psychisme et culture | Fonder l'anti-sociologie | Fonder les places du singulier et du familier en sciences humaines / setting up the bases of singularity and familiarity | L'actualité dans les sciences de l'homme et de la société / updates on human and social sciences | Analyses de la "grande crise contemporaine" | tueurs en série, tueurs-suicidants de masse : symptômes du Sociétal | Les "grandes peurs" :symptômes muets de désirs et de besoins humains | Histoire d'un chercheur / a researcher's story | Publications | direction de thèses | textes de D.Duclos traduits du français/ Denis Duclos' Texts translated from French (English, German, Italian, Spanish, | bibliographies des thèmes travaillés par Denis Duclos / bibliographies of subject matters studied by Denis Duclos | le programme de recherche de Denis Duclos au CNRS / Denis Duclos' research program at the CNRS | Projets de manifestations, séminaires, rencontres et colloques | Imaginary dialogues (which could have been real if anyone had responded) | questions et choix philosophiques | Prises de positions, alertes / stands, warnings,whistle blowing | Papers, réflexions, interventions, réactions, propositions... / papers, reflections, reactions, interventions, proposals | Thèmes spécifiques (ecologie, risque) / Specific subjects (ecology, risk) | Rabelaisiâneries / Rabelaisian jest