Universalizing the world

The European HRD Circle was founded on the concept of corporate social responsibility. It is a concept that needs to be broadened, particularly in Europe, so that European companies can help to make the world a more universal place.

Yves Barou, Chairman of the European HRD Circle.

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Universalizing the world! Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Professor at Columbia University (in french)

Universalizing the world

From the outset, we have defined ourselves as European in order to promote the inclusive force of the European model and systematically seek a European solution to the problems encountered, while of course keeping our eyes open for other models in a world that is becoming more universal.

Five trends are driving the universalization of the world.
1 The economic world is increasingly globalized, with complex value chains and growing interdependence.
2 In terms of information and communication, the world is also increasingly globalized, even if there are barriers in some countries.
3 The issue of discrimination and inequality is being raised everywhere, but often in different terms, as if social issues were resisting globalization.
4 Today, we are all facing the same challenge, a common existential issue: global warming and climate change. A challenge for which, for the first time, we are all in the same boat.
5 Finally, the mixing and intermingling of populations and cultures is increasing every day.

The history of humanity is thus moving inexorably towards the

But this has led to a backlash, misunderstandings and friction that are now very visible, even at the risk of masking the underlying trend. While many ideas converge, unresolved differences are even more visible and can be shocking. Nationalist movements, whether political or military, but also ideological, are making themselves heard as a rejection of this development, as a long-standing complaint against this groundswell which, it is true, is causing some human damage in the process.

Faced with a variety of cultures – and this is what makes the world so rich – and aspirations that may seem different, should we then give up and declare that all ideas are equal?
Should we then abandon the idea of the universal, of universal human rights, and resign ourselves to cultural relativism? Should we accept that what is scandalous here is acceptable there?
I don't think so. On the contrary, I believe that cultural relativism is a lazy attitude.
I believe that, on the contrary, we need to work to universalize the world, because this is not a given, but an action; to universalize by taking into account the contributions of each person, by drawing on the diversity of cultures around one axis, that of human rights.
And this is very important for us Europeans, who are accused of having imposed our own conception of the universal, our Enlightenment universalism.

We therefore need to broaden corporate responsibility beyond the usual ESG criteria. Companies also have a role to play in promoting democratic principles around the world. It can and must "embrace" societal issues. They can and must embody human rights at a time when governments no longer always have this credibility.
Many citizens and employees in Africa, Latin America and Asia expect European companies to be exemplary in this way, and for this exemplarity to be contagious. Provided we avoid all flippant or even arrogant attitudes, the European company, with reasonable inequalities, respectful management, a sense of humanity, attention to living together and honest social dialogue, can be a driving force for this universalization.


  • Sharing and reinforcing best practices
  • Anticipating trends and issues
  • Training and developing HR and operational leaders
  • Influencing governments’ and stakeholders’ positions


All European companies are facing common issues, and at the same time the sharing of good practices is geographical or by sectors. At the same time there are many discussions about the social dimension for Europe, but the only initiatives are coming from Brussels and are mostly limited to legal topics. Globally, there is a call for Corporate Social Responsibility, however, every company is struggling to find the way to balance the fight for competitiveness with social responsibilities.


The European HRD Circle, composed of a limited number of key experienced and international HR Directors (or ex HRDs), has been created to:

  • Share good practices and innovations and through this process give birth to the future European social standard. These norms will emerge from negotiations, within companies or sectors, and not only from common regulations
  • Be the voice of the European HR community in public debates, to translate Corporate Social Responsibility into concrete proposals