The bank for a changing world

“Social entrepreneurship is a substantive international movement”

  • 16.11.2016

BNP Paribas Group encourages solidarity initiatives worldwide. We survey these best practices with Maha Keramane, Social Entrepreneurship and Microfinance Europe Manager at BNP Paribas.

How is social entrepreneurship developing on a global level?

Social Entrepreneurship is a substantive movement that takes different forms in different countries. For example, Americans place a lot of importance on the figure of the active entrepreneur, who enjoys “hero” status, while Europeans favor a more collective dynamic. In this way, Ashoka, the world’s biggest network for social entrepreneurs, who are known as “Fellows”, emerged in North America and recognizes change makers (men and women who have the potential to change the world), while the French network Mouves (Movement for Social Entrepreneurs), distinguishes organizations and social projects supported by social entrepreneurs. 

Elsewhere in Europe, Italy stimulated the Social and Solidarity Economy in the 1990s, by creating a special status for social and solidarity cooperatives. 

In the United Kingdom, an advanced country in terms of social innovation, the Big Society concept aims to create a welfare society to replace the welfare state. The goal is to reform public services by relying on the citizens themselves, in the belief that these services will be much more efficient if they are managed by users. 

In 2012, Big Society Capital became the first “social business bank”. It was created by pooling accounts that have lain “dormant” for more than 15 years, collecting €700 million to finance projects with a strong social impact, notably the world’s first Social Impact Bonds. 

“it’s enough just to raise awareness and explain the stakes of social entrepreneurship so employees understand the topic, and then local initiatives will start to pop up on their own, as happened in Senegal and Tunisia."

Maha Keramane

Social Entrepreneurship and Microfinance Europe Manager at BNP Paribas

How can we stimulate the social and solidarity economy? 

We have many different solutions at our disposal. First, legislation can usher in a favorable context by clarifying the objectives of the Social and Solidarity Economy, enhancing its visibility and underlining its solid foundation. This can involve setting up labels and certifications, creating special legal statuses or facilitating access to public markets for social enterprises. 

Financial incentives also often represent the biggest weapon in the fight. Tax breaks can deliver a much-needed boost, as with reduced VAT and tax credits in Belgium or compensation for reduced productivity offered to social cooperatives that operate return to work programs in Poland. Similarly, policies that promote impact investing and solidarity finance, such as the Regional Guarantee Funds that limit investment risks or solidarity-based employee savings accounts in France, can help funnel sustainable funding to this sector. 

Finally, given the fact that targeted support can boost the longevity of initiatives, some countries encourage the Social and Solidarity Economy by creating a vibrant ecosystem, through incubators, for example. Bilbao (Spain) created a social innovation hub, representing a kind of “Social Silicon Valley”. It enables individuals, associations, NGOs and businesses to meet and create new products and services that will generate new jobs, build prototypes and receive training and support adapted to this sector.

What actions has BNP Paribas taken to pursue its global commitment to the Social and Solidarity Economy? 

Examples of these initiatives abound. In Morocco, we have rolled out a program to support Social Entrepreneurship and participate in developing a dedicated ecosystem. 

BNP Paribas shows a clear determination to become a hub of the Social and Solidarity Economy in order to facilitate connections. Through our privileged position as an international group, we favor the emergence of inspiring initiatives across several countries, such as Adie in Belgium, Tunisia and Luxembourg. 

We also support the international development of certain Social Enterprises, such as The Food Assembly in Italy or Groupe SOS in Morocco. 

That forces us to move our corporate culture forward. In many cases, it’s enough just to raise awareness and explain the stakes of social entrepreneurship so employees understand the topic, and then local initiatives will start to pop up on their own, as happened in Senegal and Tunisia. 

©Thomas Louapre

Are these efforts coordinated?

Of course. The CSR Department at BNP Paribas outlines its international and global approach to social entrepreneurship and ensures consistency across all of the Group’s businesses and regions. 

We began by laying out an internal definition of social entrepreneurship to identify relevant associations and enterprises. This preliminary effort enabled us to develop a dedicated credit policy, integrate social impact into our analysis, and design products adapted to the needs of this sector. This comprehensive approach, which harnesses all the tools available at a major Group, is co-constructed with our local entities to ensure it is successfully applied in every country. Next, best practices and feedback are shared between every country, during our quarterly Social Entrepreneurship steering committees, in order to influence our global approach. All these initiatives illustrate the incredible creativity and commitment of our teams!