Interview with Éric Mousset, International Consultant

5 October 2016

Today we interview Eric Mousset who is an international consultant, former President of the French-Cambodian Chamber of Commerce, and has just joined the Confluences-Consulting team. Eric specialises in technology and strategic consulting to either private or public sector, including CSR consulting which is the main focus of this article.

Could you please describe your career path?

« Right from the outset of my career in 1990, I have elected three guiding principles: embracing mobility, be it either planned or opportunistic mobility; composing a diverse portfolio of professional experiences; and bringing such portfolio to bear.

As far as geographic mobility is concerned, my career path thus far has spread over three continents —Asia, Australia and Europe— and six countries of residence and professional activity —Cambodia, Australia, Switzerland, U.K., Spain and France— not to mention short missions in various other destinations —namely Laos, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Vietnam, Malaysia et India. My career path has also been characterised by some sort of a “sectoral mobility”, in the sense that I have always managed to balance my activities between two complementary sectors i.e. Industry & Academia. Another type of mobility is the one I embraced across a single discipline —namely Information & Communication Technologies (ICT)— where I visited a variety of roles: lab-based researcher; postgraduate lecturer; research engineer; software developer; software project leader; entrepreneur; technology consultant; business consultant; and more recently, management consultant.
In late 2006, as I was reaching the end of my 30’s, and had already composed a fairly diverse portfolio as alluded to above, I found that I was still in a quest for “self-actualisation” in the sense of the Maslow hierarchy of needs. By then I had spent eight years of happy residence in Sydney. I then chose to put my career on a new path — i.e. aiming at this part of the world commonly referred to as “developing”, and using my personal values as compass — i.e. building new opportunities of socio-economic development for the populations concerned.
In early 2007, I secured a “white collar” volunteering position within a social enterprise operating in Phnom Penh, Battambang and Vientiane. Enough to satisfy my curiosity for that social entrepreneurship business model (a model that was still relatively untapped at that time), and for its articulation with CSR (the enterprise I worked for was partly supported by CSR aid from northern-American firms). That first experience in Cambodia fascinated me, and I chose to settle in Phnom Penh for some foreseeable future! I took advantage of such geographic anchoring to explore another kind of space, that is the space of career opportunities per se — searching for consulting assignments, positions or pro bono work having to do with socio-economic development. That is when my interest for CSR and my activities in that discipline gradually grew: teaching a postgraduate CSR course at the Royal University of Law and Economics (in Phnom Penh since 2009); organising, sponsoring or speaking in CSR-related conferences (in Phnom Penh in 2008/2009, Ho Chi Minh City in 2010, Kuala Lumpur in 2010); facilitating the CSR working group at the French Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia (in 2009/2010); facilitating public roundtable events (such as the 2012 ASEAN Business Summit in Phnom Penh, or the event organised by the French Chamber of Commerce last week); or serving as technical advisor to the 2016 CSR AWARDS organised by the Cambodian Section of the French Foreign Trade Advisors.
At this stage of the journey, I have gained a feeling of accomplishment, as there now exists a strong congruence between my professional activities and my personal convictions.
In the last four years I felt privileged to be associated to varied and meaningful projects. Samples follow. In Cambodia: carrying out a quantitative and socio-economic analysis of welfare of Cambodian population depending on fishery activities (the first large-scale study of this kind, because generalising to a total of 3.7 million inhabitants). In Lao PDR: equipping the four main public universities with electronic libraries in order to provide Laotian research outputs with broader visibility, and to allow easier access by students living in remote areas. In Sri Lanka: suggesting a strategic roadmap to the Government toward the adoption of electronic Government procurement, toward enhanced public finance management and fairer redistribution of economic opportunities to M/SMEs. In Cambodia again: conducting a study on Cambodian Higher Education graduates’ skills and their alignment with employer needs, and suggesting relevant policy interventions.»

Briefly, what is CSR?

« The turn of the 21st century has witnessed a gradual shift in corporate mindsets and practices. The original theory of the firm that had prevailed in the 19th and 20th centuries, and that was conceptualising the firm as an open system, has faded away. Instead, the firm has progressively been regarded more like an agent within an ecosystem. That shift of mindsets may be partly attributed to the raising awareness of planetary resources as finite resources.
Contributing to the equilibrium of the aforementioned ecosystem lies at the core of the CSR actions for a given firm. CSR motivations may derive from legal/regulatory obligations, or from the voluntary remediation of negative externalities (where applicable), or from the fulfilment of intrinsic values of the firm — usually from a combination of all three aspects.»

Can you tell us about the CSR Awards?

«The CSR Awards were instigated by Cambodian Section of the French Foreign Trade Advisors (CCEF). They aim to identify, encourage and promote CSR good practices, as carried out by Cambodia-based private companies that are linked to France’s broader foreign trade network. Just as importantly, another key motivation is to highlight the overall contribution of the French business community to Cambodia’s sustainable development goals.
The award ceremony that concluded the initial edition of the contest — the 2016 CSR Awards — took place last April at Sofitel Phokeethra in Phnom Penh. Both the number of contestants and the quality of their dossiers were really promising, which led CCEF to renew the event for next year. CCEF invited me again to act as technical advisor for the contest, which implies formulating the contest rules, providing guidance to contestants, or creating an assessment instrument for the jury.
The launch date for the forthcoming 2017 CSR Awards is to be announced by the end of this year.»

Which CSR actions would you suggest for Confluences?

«In general, the practice of CSR includes not only “actions” per se which are the visible part of the CSR commitment, but also “managerial activities” which form the canvas. It is good practice for action to be preceded by some rationalising and planning effort. As far as Confluences is concerned, such effort may imply conducting a stakeholder & impact analysis, e.g. organisations benefiting from Confluences-Incubator and Confluences-Consulting services.
The concept of ecosystem, which I was alluding to above, is especially relevant in the context of Confluences. The reason is because Confluences plays a most particular role within its own ecosystem, which is to catalyse the creation of new and innovative enterprises on the Cambodian territory — thereby contributing to critical national goals such as economic diversification and creation of higher value-added activities as set out in RGC’s strategic planning documents.
Confluences’ founders and managers ought to delineate the scope of the company’s own corporate responsibility. It may imply establishing a first guiding principle, whereby new entrants matching a certain profile benefit from supplementary care and assistance by Confluences, provided the said profile is expected to eventually contribute to national development priorities. For example it is already the case with a business association named “FrenchTech”, which benefits from a substantial support by Confluences. Another guiding principle might be to encourage stronger entrepreneurial commitment from the Cambodian diaspora — as a response to Mr Vann Molyvann’s poignant call by in the recent film by Haig Balian et Christophe Rompré titled “The Man who Built Cambodia”. In fact, the civil society association named Anvaya, whose core mission is precisely to foster a dynamics of return from the diaspora, has already been hosted and supported by Confluences for the past few years.»

Linkedin : Éric Mousset Linkedin

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