PARIS — Visiting a Christian Dior haute couture workshop in Paris, France’s minister delegate for personal independence Brigitte Bourguignon signed an agreement with company executives pledging extra support for French employees helping out aged family members.
“It is very important, for a house of this quality that is emblematic of French fashion, to see that behind the display of beauty there is also attention paid to the artisans, to all employees, to all the people that form the team behind this work — I believe it can give ideas to other businesses,” said Bourguignon, speaking in the foyer of the stark, modern workshops.
Bourguignon had listened to a series of presentations and conversations with employees who recounted their experiences looking after an aged parent. A saleswoman who works at the Dior store on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, for example, explained that she was able to take the latest shift in the day in order to keep mornings free to look after her house-bound mother and prepare meals for her.
Corporate social responsibility has been thrust to the forefront by the widespread economic hardship brought on by the pandemic — adding pressure on companies to show they are acting as responsible corporate citizens on an ever-broader array of subjects, from the environment to the treatment of employees. Luxury companies face particular scrutiny from consumers, who are asking more questions about the social and economic costs of high-end products, and this is increasingly informing purchases.
LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton has encouraged its houses to boost support for employees facing hardship, and various initiatives include measures to allow more time away from the office for parents of handicapped children and assistance for employees seeking medical help for themselves or family members. An extra service was adopted by a number of LVMH brands to help employees and their families dealing with COVID-19.
The agreement signed by Dior and Bourguignon, which provides employees with help navigating the medical system and the country’s social services as well as giving them extra days off, is part of a program with the French government centered on helping elderly people. It was drawn up with a non-profit organization called Make.org that sets up programs meant to mobilize the public and private sectors around a common cause, often soliciting participation of citizens in the process.
“I believe we will all be winners because we all want to help out people we love in life but without affecting our professional paths,” said Bourguignon, who works for the country’s ministry of solidarity and health.
The minister, who is known in France for her role in promoting the extension of access to free in vitro fertilization to gay and single women a couple of years ago, was joined by LVMH general secretary Marc-Antoine Jamet for a tour of the workshops. Workers were seen carefully stitching luxury fabrics in the brightly lit space, dotted with dress forms of all sizes and shapes, made-to-measure for clients of the house.
The company counts employees aged from 18 to 75 years, and over the last three years has recruited people over 50 years old, noted Emmanuelle Favre, senior vice president of human resources for the label. Favre outlined other recent company measures, including an agreement laying out terms for working remotely, which was set in 2018, as well as a third agreement on gender equality last December.
Over the past three years, the company’s social assistant Sylvie Ledoux identified 40 employees who had parents, children or a partner with special needs. The company also put in place a system whereby employees can donate days off to others.
“Yesterday, the president of the Republic said we are all citizens and we must all act with solidarity, and this fits perfectly,” said Bourguignon. French President Emmanuel Macron, who recently announced a curfew in the Paris region to stem soaring cases of COVID-19, has emphasized these notions when speaking of the challenges of the economic and health crises.