French employee representative bodies, Social and Economic Committees, have a new role scrutinising the environmental implication of employers' projects.

The Social and Economic Committee (CSE) is the employee representation body in France, composed of elected staff members (elections take place every four years in principle), in companies with at least 11 employees.

The Committee's prerogatives are much greater in companies with at least 50 employees: the employer must inform and consult the Committee on questions and projects concerning the organisation, management and general running of the company (for example: restructuring projects). This consultation must take place before any implementation of the employer's decision.

In addition, the Committee is consulted periodically (in principle: every year) on:

  • the strategic orientation of the company;
  • the economic and financial situation of the company;
  • the social policy of the company.

The Committee's mission is 'traditionally' described as follows:

'to ensure the collective expression of employees, enabling their interests to be taken into account on a permanent basis in decisions relating to the management and economic and financial development of the company, to the organisation of work, to vocational training and to production techniques'.

This means the Committee has competence in economic and social matters. But, for the first time, a law of 22 August 2021 extends its competence to environmental issues.

This means that from now on, for all matters on which the Committee must be consulted, the employer must inform the Committee about the environmental consequences of the company's actions or proposals. In other words, the information given to the Committee within the framework of the consultation process must now include an assessment of the environmental consequences of the employer's projects. This is a considerable evolution of the CSE's role; from now on, it is no longer limited to representing the interests of employees, but is also involved in environmental protection matters.

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