Gobain – Multinationals Observatory

The Saint-Gobain group is one of the most venerable French multinationals, since its prestigious history dates back to the founding of the Royal Ice Cream Factory by Colbert in 1865, to reduce France’s dependence on Venetian ice cream. The factory will settle in 1693 in the village of Saint-Gobain, in Picardy. During the 19th century, it would become a diversified industrial group by developing chemical activities. In 1970, its merger with Pont-à-Mousson brought it assets in the steel industry.

It is now one of the world leaders in building materials (glass, plaster, insulation, etc.), a position that it intends to defend tooth and nail, as shown by its numerous disputes with the competition authorities. .

Saint-Gobain is also a group very close to the circles of power, which although private (apart from a brief parenthesis between 1982 and 1986) has always contributed directly or indirectly to dictating the industrial policy of the French government, even if it has often had to concede primacy to the influence of the financial sector.

Herald of French industry, the Saint-Gobain group has nevertheless participated in the movement to relocate jobs outside France and to sell certain French activities deemed non-strategic to financial players, as was the case recently. for its subsidiary Verallia.

Saint-Gobain has historically been one of the main users of asbestos in France and has participated in the efforts of manufacturers to continue using it despite its proven health risks. It still continues today to settle disputes related to the exposure of its employees.

The group has also recently come under the spotlight for water pollution cases in the United States related to its chemicals and plastics business. One of its subsidiaries was also implicated in the fire at Grenfell Tower in London in 2017.

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