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Adecco: Getting it Together

By Elaine Cohen (BeyondBusiness) on November 09, 2009 at 3:34pm.


Adecco is an employment services provider, turning over 20 billion Euros, with 34,000 direct (internal) employees around the world and over half a million (external) employees working in client Companies.  Over half the business is in Europe whilst the remainder covers most corners of the globe.  Adecco say: “We make a key contribution to sustainable development by showing people respect.” This may seem rather elementary, but in the context of Adecco’s role in influencing which people gain work, and how the working environment impacts them, I believe it is actually a cornerstone of a good CR approach. The three material issues that Adecco report in detail are: safety in the workplace, skill development of employees and “integration” (non-discrimination, equal opportunity and access to work for under-privileged groups).

In fact, because of the nature of Adecco’s business, almost this entire report is about indirect impacts and the initiatives Adecco has developed to influence the way the labour market around the world accepts people. An example of this is Adecco’s opening story about Celine, a 24 year old Portuguese woman who was recruited as a bricklayer in a collaborative project in France with local government and a construction company to recruit 60 female bricklayers. Adecco’s timeline shows an impressive 10 years of achievement in initiatives to support and train disadvantaged people, prepare athletes for a career after competitive sport, promote accident prevention programs, employment for military spouses, child labour prevention, work experience for people with mental and physical disabilities and more. In 2008, for example, Adecco helped around 10,000 people with disabilities into employment in Europe. “Adecco Group probably employs more people with disabilities in Europe than any other company.” This is clearly more than just about job placement. Adecco invests in developing employment opportunities for mature workers, and initiatives in Europe have resulted in over 30,000 people finding employment where age otherwise prevented them from re-entering the job market. Strengthening women, integrating ethnic minorities and integrating immigrants including aborigines in Toronto, Poles in Norway, helping deaf people find employment and more are proudly reported.  Anyone who knows the labour market knows the intensive efforts it takes to drive non-standard recruitment. I think this is an outstanding example of core business and CR coming together for commercial and social benefit.

In the area of safety, Adecco confirm they conduct a safety risk assessment before contracting with new clients and placing employees with them... “Where working conditions at a client’s site do not meet the applicable health and safety requirements, Adecco ceases to provide the client with employees.” It would be nice to know how many clients were refused such services, and whether this policy has had an effect of making employers more safety-conscious in general. Accident frequency rates in six “selected” subsidiaries are shown to have decreased, though the global picture for safety is not reported. 

Environmental data in materials usage is presented only for France and the entire environmental section is minimal. Whilst there is some mention of reducing and recycling paper usage (although data for paper recycling in 2008 is not available), and some individual examples from Adecco subsidiaries (Japan uses soy ink, USA has a Going Green committee, etc.) Adecco has clearly not focused on environmental impacts as part of a comprehensive core CR approach. However, with over half a million people and 145 corporate clients around the world, the potential for Adecco to have an impact on the environmentally positive behaviour of employees is significant in terms of travel to work, savings of materials, energy and water, handling of office waste etc.  Use of technology is a core element of Adecco’s efficient running of the business – actions to move towards greener IT solutions, use and recycling of IT hardware, greening of Adecco’s 6000+ offices around the world and data collection and reporting of environmental performance could be more strongly on Adecco’s radar. 

Despite the impressive reporting of impacts on employees, what I miss in this report is the nature of the relationships that Adecco maintains with its client Companies. I would have liked to have heard how Adecco’s untiring efforts to promote safety, skill development and integration have been assimilated into client recruitment and Human Resources policies, as ultimately, the clients are just as important a primary stakeholder as the people Adecco places.


The structure of this report is clear and navigation is straightforward. The opening sections describe Adecco’s approach and impacts in key material aspects, and two sections provide Adecco’s Communication on Progress for the Global Compact and an indicator-by-indicator report following the GRI Index sequence. I had to smile at the response to indicator 3.12 (presence of the GRI index) “No GRI Content Index is provided because we think the way our GRI section is presented in this report makes such an index redundant.” Clearly, reporting by indicator saves time and energy in developing a separate index. However, it does make for a rather fragmented report. The flow of the GRI indicators is not necessarily the best formula for readers.

The report is selective in the data it presents and the performance it reports in different locations. There are many specific examples of activities in Adecco’s different subsidiaries, but an overall picture of Adecco’s social and environmental impacts is difficult to gauge. Even the three material issues that Adecco highlights are localized in the way they are reported.


Adecco has stepped up CR efforts in 2008 with the creation of a dedicated CR team overseen by the Board Governance committee and a commitment to annual reporting. The list of 25 awards and citations Adecco received during the reporting period is impressive and shows some level of embeddedness of this Company’s CR approach. Adecco maintains a broad range of local connections and involvement in industry collaborative groups.  These include chambers of commerce, industry federations and non-profit associations which support labour advancement and integration, and it demonstrates commitment to addressing issues that change the face of labour markets. However, this report, a GRI self-declared B level, and Adecco’s third reporting effort, is not verified, and presents limited data. The “Outlook” section on Adecco’s CR future plans is vague and, aside from expressing a general intention to “get it more together” and continuing to report, does not make any real commitment to CR targets.  I believe this report is transitional  for Adecco – their last report in 2008 covered three years from 2004 to 2007 – and things have clearly moved on since then.  I am optimistic that Adecco’s next report will reflect more aligned global progress and reporting. 


1. Review Adecco’s overall CR strategy and reflect that more comprehensively in the report
2. Improve environmental reporting
3. Improve transparency and have the report assured

elaine cohen
October 2009
elaine cohen is the Joint CEO of BeyondBusiness Ltd, www.b-yond.biz/en , a leading CSR reporting and consulting firm,  specializing in a wide range of consulting services for the development of social and environmental responsibility of businesses. Elaine Cohen is an independent reviewer and has no commercial relationship with the reporting company.