BNP Paribas supports social entrepreneurship

Social Entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneurship means that businesses not only pursue a financial objective, but also an explicit and priority mission of social value. With a keen awareness of social and environmental challenges in mind, growing numbers of entrepreneurs are opting for this approach in favor of the greater good. BNP Paribas offers support to help their efforts bloom.

Social entrepreneurship: building the world together

Social entrepreneurship is a relatively recent concept that first really took off during the 2000s. We can define it broadly as “entrepreneurship to serve the wider community”. Beyond this shared mission, the sector reveals a vast galaxy of unique and varied initiatives.

In the United States, where the concept initially saw the light of day in the 1990s, social entrepreneurs are first and foremost changemakers who seek to improve society through their business strategies. That is the definition given by Bill Drayton, founder of Ashoka, the world’s first network for social entrepreneurs. In 1993, Harvard and Stanford became the first universities to popularize this concept.

In no time, social entrepreneurship set out to conquer the world. Building on his work in microfinance, Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, promoted Social Business and breathed new life into the concept. In his view, social entrepreneurs work to end poverty and remain financially self-sufficient, without paying out dividends. 

In 2008, the first Social Enterprise World Forum aimed to build a network for social entrepreneurs across the globe. Today, social entrepreneurship is seeing fast but staggered growth. In Senegal, 18.1% of the population runs a business tied to social entrepreneurship, while only 1% does so in Taiwan. The United States and Australia are among the nations with the highest levels of activity, with around 11% each. 

A great impetus was given in 2013 by the creation of the G8 Social Impact Investment Task Force at the initiative of David Cameron's government in Great Britain.

Today’s new social, energy and environmental challenges have made social entrepreneurship an essential sector for the future.

  • Jean-Laurent Bonnafé

    Director and Chief Executive Officer of BNP Paribas

    I firmly believe that the success of tomorrow's companies ans employees will depend to a large extent on the ability of their leadership to generate benefits for civil society and the world around them.

Social certification: France leads the way

Social entrepreneurship, as well as the ESS (Social and Solidarity Economy) of which it is a part of, enjoy an excellent reputation in France, with 82% of French people thinking the government should invest more to develop social entrepreneurship, and 2/3 of the country interested in getting involved in social entrepreneurship. On top of that, decision-makers have also taken a greater interest in the topic. In 2014, France adopted a law designed specifically to stimulate the sector, notably by creating the ESUS certification (Entreprise solidaire d’utilité sociale—“Responsible companies with social interest”). In this positive context, social entrepreneurship has grown and now represents 10% of GDP, 10.5% of jobs (13.9% of private sector jobs) and 221,325 establishments. 

In January 2019, Christophe Itier, High Commissioner for Social and Solidarity Economy and Social Innovation, announced the launch of a national social innovation accelerator and a French Impact initiative. Inspired by FrenchTech, French Impact is a new national campaign to build a community and showcase the diversity of social innovation players. The accelerator gives them a means to support and encourage innovations all across the country. It can give local initiatives the momentum they need to scale up and become national or even international solutions.

On November the 29th, 2018, the French government clarified its approach by presenting the Growth Pact of the Social and Solidarity Economy, through which it details for the first time a global development strategy for this sector. Several concrete measures have thus been announced such as : the mobilization of 100 million euro to bring seed capital to social start-ups or the allocation of one million euro to promote the assessment of the societal impact. 

Supporting social businesses

BNP Paribas is one of the major partners of French Impact. The Bank is also currently the only commercial bank to roll out an international strategy, across several continents, to support social businesses: Act For Impact. At the end of 2018, the Group’s support for this sector exceeded 1.5 billion euros. More than 2,000 social businesses (customers and partners) in seven countries have benefited from several types of support offered by the Group.

Act for Impact: in France, BNP Paribas takes action on every front

With over 500 organizations receiving support in France, BNP Paribas is committed to supporting social entrepreneurs at every step of the way.


BNP Paribas works closely with the major players of the Social Business ecosystem—notably France ActiveBPI France and the NovESS fund—in order to encourage entrepreneurs to get started, make the right choices and grow their businesses.


BNP Paribas also offers incubation and coaching services (WAI, volunteering and skills sponsorship). Several partnerships with the social business ecosystem* provide direction to social entrepreneurs. For the Impact Invest Tour, BNP Paribas traveled all over France, together with the CDC, Comptoir de l’Innovation and Mouves, to meet with hundreds of social entrepreneurs and give them the tools they need to grow.


In 2017, to accelerate the movement, boost the visibility of social entrepreneurs in France and ensure the right conditions for their creation, BNP Paribas took its efforts further by creating the Act for Impact Label. The Label centralizes all the different components of its social business system to promote cooperation across France and deliver full support to the entrepreneurs who are transforming society.

La RucheAntropiaSenseCube (unavailable link)Ashoka

Wealth generation: building a Social Valley? 

Social entrepreneurship is more than just a high ideal. It’s a dynamic, efficient and wealth-generating sector.

It also features greater representation of minorities and gender diversity, with 45% of social entrepreneurs being women. It is just as profitable and stable as the rest of the business world. In fact, it has proven its resiliency during crises and, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, it remains “an incredible source of long-term jobs that cannot be outsourced”. 


Muhammad Yunus

Nobel Peace Prize laureate