• Sustainable finance

Eventually, all businesses will be social and solidarity enterprises

Raphaèle Leroy
Raphaèle Leroy
CSR and Social Entrepreneurship Manager

Powering every sector of the economy, social and solidarity enterprises now create one out of every seven jobs in France. To meet their needs, BNP Paribas has rolled out a dedicated program led by 60 business specialists . We sat down with CSR and Social Entrepreneurship Manager Raphaèle Leroy to learn more.

What is the state of social entrepreneurship in France?

Social entrepreneurship is a model that is rapidly expanding. For over a decade, it has taken root in every sector of the economy: return to work assistance, environment, health, integration, etc. 

More and more students are falling in love with the model, as more specialized programs emerge at business schools and universities. What’s more, France is leading the way in the sector. Of the 30 top business leaders under 30 years of age featured in the European version of the “30 Under 30” list from Forbes magazine, 27 are French. Nearly a dozen of them fall into the “social entrepreneurship” category. 

Social entrepreneurship is a major component of the social and solidarity economy. Estimating the total number of these efforts is a complicated process. It’s a very disparate galaxy, touching a nearly infinite number of sectors and representing every sort of legal structure. One thing is certain: the model is absolutely booming. 

“Social entrepreneurship is a model that is rapidly expanding. For over a decade, it has taken root in every sector of the economy: return to work assistance, environment, health, integration, etc.”

Raphaèle Leroy

CSR and Social Entrepreneurship Manager

Who are social entrepreneurs?

Social entrepreneurs do not fit any common mold or typical background. They may include innovative health startups, developers of educational apps for autistic children, companies that hire the long-term unemployed to reintroduce them into the working world, or mothers creating a cooperative daycare that offers income-based fees. 

What all of these entrepreneurs have in common is a determination to use their talents to serve the common good. 

What types of obstacles do social entrepreneurs face?

Not only do they have to become profitable, but they also have to demonstrate the actual social impact of their activity. Measuring this impact is essential. Social Entrepreneurs must set indicators to gauge the efficiency of their models. However, evaluating the social or environmental performance of an activity can prove complicated. 

To help them, BNP Paribas developed an impact evaluation method that is both qualitative and quantitative. This method is based on indicators responding to three key questions: 

Who are the beneficiaries?
What is being done for them?
What are the expected results?

How do public authorities encourage the social and solidarity economy?

Since 2014, the framework law on the social and solidarity economy  brought greater visibility to these players by recognizing their contribution to the economy. Enacted through this law, the “solidarity enterprise” certification provides access to special financing options. At the same time, other dedicated financing tools were also created, notably by the French Public Investment Bank (BPI). 

Lastly, solidarity savings accounts give investors a chance to add an ethical dimension to their investments by supporting projects with a strong social or environmental utility, without having to sacrifice profitability. 

What are the means that BNP Paribas puts to use to help the various players of the social and solidarity economy?

BNP Paribas understands that social entrepreneurs are looking for a bank that understands them and listens to their problems. With that in mind, we have launched a dedicated initiative that builds on the experience of the France Active network, a group which supports and finances social enterprises. Our 60 dedicated business specialists  know how to read a balance sheet with an alternative outlook in mind, watching the bottom line while enhancing social and/or environmental performance. We also established solidarity funds and have forged partnerships with incubators.

How do you see the sector developing in the coming years?

We see a clear evolution of the corporate world as a whole. There is a convergence between the classic corporate model and that of social enterprises. Large companies are increasingly converting themselves to the principles of the social and solidarity economy. Ultimately, every company will represent these values.

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