Corporate governance trends in France


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Accelerating progress towards gender parity

Women’s representation on boards and executive committees has been steadily increasing in France, and we expect this trend to continue in 2024. Overall, 46% of CAC 40 board members are women, many of whom are also shouldering board leadership roles, with 50% of all committees being chaired by women. Interestingly, women directors are leading the charge on the burgeoning issue of sustainability, comprising of 75% of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) committee members and 93% of CSR committee chairs in CAC 40 companies. While France was already the forerunner in increasing women’s representation on boards, the European Women on Boards Directive (which mandates companies listed in EU member countries to have women in at least 40% of non-executive director positions or 33% of all board roles by June 2026) is further boosting this trend.

Similarly, in the last decade, the share of women in CAC 40 executive committees has increased from 8% to 28%. Out of the 198 appointments made to SBF 120 executive committees from 2022 to 2023, 42% were women. Undoubtedly, the “Rixain law,” which requires companies with more than 1,000 employees to have women in 40% of senior management positions by March 2031, is providing further impetus to increase women’s representation in executive committees. However, it is also important to note that progress is not only needed in sheer numbers, but also within the type of executive committee roles – while women hold 43% of functional positions, they only hold 15% of operational roles. We anticipate progress on this front to be a bit slower, given that only 21% of new operational appointments made in the last year were women.


Continued emphasis on ESG

CSR and ESG will continue to be a major topic with French boards, with 90% of CAC 40 and 70% of SBF 120 having a committee dedicated to CSR. Boards will continue to see an ESG uptake and, in due course, its full integration into corporate strategy, executive remuneration, and the profile of future leaders. Indeed, as the world is teetering on the cusp of potentially irreversible climate change, businesses are increasingly responding to the demands for real ESG actions and results by investors, government, society, and other stakeholders. The EU-wide Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) is set to impose harmonized sustainability standards and new reporting obligations, which come into effect between FY 2024 and 2030, depending on the size of the company. This is expected not only to have a huge impact on ESG reporting, but also how companies ingrain ESG into everything they do, given that the CSRD reporting double downs on how a company both impacts and is impacted by climate change.


Changes in CEO demographics

We observe a steady decline in internal CEO appointments, with only 38% of succession plans resulting in the appointment of an internal CEO in 2022, compared to 67% in 2020 and 85% in 2018. Additionally, CEOs in the SBF 120 are not staying in their positions for as long, now departing after an average of 7.5 years, compared to almost 10 years in 2019. Also, their average age at departure has been dropping, now sitting at less than 60 years old. These trends potentially allude to the impact of turbulent market conditions, exacerbated by wide reaching politico-economic challenges, with companies facing unprecedented shifts in the business landscape and wanting to bring more varied and contemporary business experience and fresh perspective to navigate complex market conditions. Interestingly, 22% of the CEOs in SBF 120 were foreign nationals, compared to 15% in 2020. This trend is also in line with the high and relatively stable percentage of international non-executive directors (i.e., nationality other than French), at 37% in 2023. These trends collectively demonstrate a dynamic and evolving corporate governance landscape in France, influenced by both regulatory changes and the broader socio-economic context.


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