Publicis Groupe appoints CSR champion at the highest level to spearhead change

Publicis Groupe has expanded the responsibilities of secretary general Anne-Gabrielle Heilbronner to include CSR and The Women's Forum for the Economy and Society.

Anne-Gabrielle Heilbronner: expanded remit
Anne-Gabrielle Heilbronner: expanded remit

The move marks the first time both initiatives have had a dedicated representative on Publicis Groupe’s most senior leadership level, the Directoire, and the first time they have been managed by the same person.

Heilbronner is the only female member of the Directoire and currently has responsibility for legal affairs, human resources, procurement, governance, compliance, internal audit and risk management. She will retain her existing remit.

Eve Magnant, vice president, corporate social responsibility director at Publicis Groupe, and Clara Gaymard and Chiara Corazza, the executive president and managing director of The Women’s Forum respectively, will now report to Heilbronner.

At Publicis Groupe since 2012, Heilbronner was initially senior vice president, compliance and legal. She was promoted to secretary general in April 2013.

She has extensive experience in the public and private sector in roles including cabinet director of the state secretary for reform, special advisor to the minister of foreign affairs, head of internal audit and risk management at the French railways SNCF and managing director and senior banker at Société Générale.

Heilbronner said: "We have always been focused on CSR and diversity. We [will] try to make the focus stronger. We always need to have diverse talent. People and particularly young people want to work in a company where diversity really matters.

"Clients are being confronted by huge transformation and change. They are looking for diversity, for diverse talents and new ideas and solutions."

Part of Heilbronner's new role will be to define Publicis Groupe's CSR priorities at a global level.

"A lot of agencies pursue a lot of actions locally," she said. "They care about diversity or the environment. What I want to do is put in a global strategy that is consistent with our business strategy and talent and client expectations." 

Although the exact nature of this is yet to be decided upon, Heilbronner expects issues including diversity, responsible marketing, the Unilever-led Unstereotype alliance to combat negative stereotypes in marketing, data protection and transparency and the need to be more efficient to be part of her agenda.

Heilbronner said Publicis Groupe does not intend to increase the money it spends on CSR as part of this renewed focus because its budget for such initiatives is "already very high". "We can do a lot and be extremely efficient. New actions can be funded by savings," she added.

Publicis Groupe will look to increase the number of strategic partnerships it is involved with. In addition to the Unstereotype alliance with Unilever the group works with Nestlé on its youth employment initiative, Nestlé needs YOUth.

"We want to be more efficient and we want to make sure what we do is meaningful," Heilbronner said.

The Women's Forum for the Economy and Society is a Publicis Groupe company that exists to give women a platform to talk about major social and economic issues. It holds an annual event in Paris but also runs initiatives such as workshops throughout the year.

"We are looking at everything to see how we can reinforce the connections between The Women's Forum and Publicis Groupe," Heilbronner said.

The gender pay gap is "one of the questions at the top of the agenda", Heilbronner said. "We need to make sure, agency by agency, that we do not have a pay gap between men and women. That is something that I will be extremely vigilant on."

Publicis Groupe prevented its UK agencies from completing the IPA’s diversity census last year because it only allowed them to provide information that had been externally audited.

Heilbronner said the IPA census was the kind of initiative Publicis Groupe would analyse on a case-by-case basis. She said she would have a "positive look" at returning to the census but that no decision had been made "to [her] knowledge".

Publicis Groupe's record on diversity came to the fore in August last year when Kevin Roberts, then executive chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi and head coach at Publicis Groupe, was roundly criticised for saying the "diversity debate is over". He resigned and Kate Stanners replaced him as chairwoman of Saatchi & Saatchi.

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