French savers drive €30bn towards social ventures, as ‘solidarity-based finance’ grows by 15%

2024 edition of France’s Social Impact Finance Barometer indicates growing success of personal financial products with a social or environmental focus.

French citizens’ personal savings directed towards supporting social and environmental projects reached a total of €30.2bn at the end of 2023, representing 0.5% of all French households’ financial savings.

This is an increase of €4bn since 2022; a growth of 15%.

Patrick Sapy FAIRThe figures were released at the end of June by FAIR, a membership body for the social finance sector, and French newspaper La Croix, in the Social Impact Finance Barometer 2024. They represent the year ending 31 December 2023.

“These results demonstrate the growing attachment of French savers to issues of social and environmental transition: they feel concerned and are taking action thanks to their savings,” said Patrick Sapy, CEO of FAIR (pictured).

 

French solidarity-based finance

The funds are from direct and indirect investments by French people in social and environmental ventures, what the French often refer to as ‘solidarity-based finance’. 

This market started to develop in the 1980s as the financial sector was liberalised. Today, French people can invest in social and environmental projects, including social enterprises in several ways.

They can invest directly in non-listed social enterprises through shares or bonds (these are companies that don’t have their shares traded on a stock exchange).

Banks and insurance companies offer mutual funds and personal savings accounts with a social and environmental focus. These savings accounts allocate a percentage of the interest payments to NGOs or other similar organisations. 

Since 2010, all employers which offer savings plans to employees must offer what are termed ‘90/10 solidarity funds’. These funds allocated between 5 and 10% of their assets to eligible social enterprises, and the remaining 90-95% of assets are invested following SRI principles. 

FAIR manages the Finansol label, which was launched in 1997, and which today certifies the socially responsible nature of 187 savings products open to the general public. 

The PACTE law of 2022 requires insurers to offer at least one social option in life insurance policies.

French social finance infographic 2023 FAIR

FAIR attributes the rise in investments during 2023 to a number of factors including a growth in assets under management by social impact funds, such as mutual funds and unit trusts, from €3.5bn to €4.4bn. 

Employee savings schemes focused on social finance grew by nearly 18%, reaching €2.7bn in 2023. FAIR estimates that the number of employees invested in Finansol-certified employee savings schemes is between 1.2m and 1.3m employees.

Projects supported by this type of finance include social enterprises, microfinance institutions and agricultural cooperatives, as well as renewable electricity projects and job creation schemes. 

 

Header photo: Microfinance organisation UBTEC supports people in Burkina Faso, via solidarity investor SIDI. Photo © Philippe Lissac, reproduced with permission.

 

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