• Sustainable finance

Social innovation—BNP Paribas commits to French Impact

Maha Keramane
Maha Keramane
Head of Social Entrepreneurship and Microfinance Europe

Whether it be for the circular economy, workforce integration or services for people with disabilities, companies with a positive social impact have started to gain more attention. To support their growth and dynamic activity, the French government launched its French Impact program. This is an ambitious project in which BNP Paribas has taken part through its own Act for Impact program, BNP Paribas’ overall approach to supporting social entrepreneurship in France.

On June 12, the French government revealed the 22 winners of French Impact’s Regional Pioneers competition, covering social innovation projects (solidarity carpooling, real estate, reintegration, etc.) selected for application at the national scale. After ‘French Tech’, social innovation has joined the French landscape with ‘French Impact’. 

According to Maha Keramane, Social Entrepreneurship and Microfinance Europe Manager for BNP Paribas, “French Impact reveals new trends in the social and solidarity economy. Its name is intended to echo the French Tech movement and its  goal is to reflect the increasingly porous nature of the two industries. Digital and tech both seek to have a positive impact through their innovations, while the multiplier effect of digital tech is harnessed to serve the general interest. This has led to the different iterations of SocialTech, EdTech, MedTech, FoodTech, GreenTech, etc.” 

This initiative, announced by the French government on January 18, 2018, actively supports companies in the social and solidarity economy (SSE). 

French Impact reveals new trends in the social and solidarity economy. Its name is intended to echo the French Tech movement and its  goal is to reflect the increasingly porous nature of the two industries.

It covers a full arsenal of financial incentives set to mobilize 1 billion euros in public and private funds over five years, assistance programs aiming to unify the entire sector’s stakeholders and supporters ‘under the same roof’, and a digital platform. 

French Impact is also a label for the sector, which has seen a strong dynamic in France for several years. In 2016, the Forbes ‘30 under 30’ list of future European leaders underscored the excellence of young French entrepreneurs in social business. The ground is fertile and a hotbed of talent is available. Now it is just a matter of laying the best groundwork to stimulate innovation, encourage the creation of new businesses and, above all, ensure their growth on national and international levels. This is the ambition of French Impact.

"The French Impact initiative targets the constraints facing SSE actors. The social and solidarity economy takes root in a long tradition and DNA in France, where the concept of the public interest is very strong. Historically, the system has operated based on government subsidies and grants from organizations. It’s great for getting initiatives off the ground, but it leaves several gaps when it comes to scaling up, which French Impact aims to address." 

Maha Keramane

Head of Social Entrepreneurship and Microfinance Europe

Spreading French Tech with a positive impact

Among the 200 applications submitted through the first round of French Impact, 45 companies were auditioned and 22 selected to receive support for their expansion across France. Nearly half of finalists are also customers or partners of BNP Paribas.

Each project will notably receive the PIONNIER PASS, a package of comprehensive, tailored support for scaling up (growth plan financing, provision of a French Impact Hacker, impact evaluations, pool of private partners, etc.).

Discover the list of 22 Pioneer projects French Impact

Focus on Phénix, a promising solution to fight waste 

Phénix is one of 22 finalist companies in the French Impact competition. It has immense potential for the circular economy. Its digital platform makes it possible to connect retailers (appliance outlets, grocery stores, equipment vendors, etc.) and organizations in real time to redistribute excess and unsold products. 

The startup is doing very well,” says Maha Keramane. “It’s the perfect example of the growing intersection between innovative technology and social innovation and we are convinced that it can expand rapidly in Europe.” To provide further support, BNP Paribas also invited the young company onto its Open Innovation Lab during the latest VivaTech fair.

Offering a showcase to companies with a positive impact and increasing their visibility among different audiences is one key component of our overall program favoring social entrepreneurship," says Maha Keramane. The Act for Impact system, launched by BDDF and which has inspired several of the bank’s other locations in Europe, is perfectly in step with the goals of French Impact. It combines all the Social entrepreneurship initiatives carried out by BNP Paribas over the years. “We also want to support the emergence and growth of these 3.0 impact companies,” says Maha Keramane. 

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