Cécile Jouenne-Lanne, Head of Citizenship - Foundation Board Member for the Societe Generale group, looks back on what has been accomplished over the past 10 years and on employee commitment, inextricably linked with that of the bank.
WHAT ROLE DOES THE SOCIETE GENERALE FOUNDATION PLAY?
The Societe Generale Corporate Foundation for Solidarity was created in 2006 to support common interest projects in the field of professional integration, particularly by helping young people start their careers and by tackling illiteracy. The Foundation is active in every country where Societe Generale is present, relying on the Group’s subsidiaries to develop close ties with local job placement associations.
Whether it is access to training, support for finding employment, help in obtaining a diploma or integration initiatives, nearly 800 projects have been supported over the past 10 years by the Foundation in 26 countries, providing help for over 250,000 beneficiaries.
HOW DOES THE SOCIETE GENERALE FOUNDATION CHOOSE WHICH PROJECTS TO SUPPORT?
Every year, we issue 3 calls for projects and receive around 250 applications for each one. We support around a hundred projects each year, providing up to 30% of a project’s total cost and supporting it a maximum of three consecutive times. Rather than the scale of a project or association, what is important is the impact it will have. This long-term commitment is also reflected in the development of a network of “major partners”. Five associations have been given this status - Apprentis d’Auteuil, Ares, Care France, Emmaüs Défi, Sport dans la Ville - and the Foundation has built up very strong relationships with them in recent years. These relationships built on trust allow us to have regular dialogue and debate so that we can respond to the issues and challenges of associations on the ground in the best possible way.
IS THE FOUNDATION’S SCOPE GOING TO WIDEN?
In order to move closer still to the Group’s commitments, the Societe Generale Foundation has, since late 2014, widened its scope to include education and chooses to support community projects that use sport and/or cultural activities to promote the integration of people in difficulty. For example, since last year the Group and its subsidiaries have supported the Hatus Institute “Building citizenship with Art” project, which offers free music lessons to children and teenagers from the Sao Paulo favelas. Around 30% of supported projects now come under this area.
Another key decision is the recent increase in annual funding which will reach 3 million euros in 2017. This amount will enable the Foundation to provide associations with additional support in a difficult economic and social climate.
DO EMPLOYEES PLAY A PART IN THIS COMMITMENT?
Employee commitment is inextricably linked with that of the Group. A very large number of them – 13,000 in 2015 – use their skills to help the beneficiaries of charitable organisations or are involved in the sporting and solidarity challenges organised by the Group.
Their commitment is expressed in a wide variety of forms, including taking part in Pro Bono days (volunteering their expertise) to help partner associations, mentoring young people through school and towards employment or assisting the long-term unemployed with their return to working life. Employees can also help young apprentices by teaching them the basics necessary for understanding the most common banking concepts and transactions via the financial education programme with the CRESUS association. Other initiatives based on the same model as this have been developed abroad, in Poland and Russia for example.
WHAT INITIATIVES STAND OUT FOR YOU?
Beyond any one project in particular, I’m thinking of the in-house buzz generated by the ‘Citizen Commitment Time’ we organise every year before summer. During the 2016 edition, and for the Foundation’s 10th anniversary, almost 200 solidarity events were organised through our subsidiaries in 43 countries. Whether in China, India, Dubai, the Czech Republic or Cameroon, the commitment of the Group’s employees remains unfailing. Beyond the selection of projects and the Foundation’s financial contribution, it is this positive energy from our employees in support of the associations which stands out.
City Gateway aims to help unemployed women and young people in difficulty in local East London communities by setting up training and support programmes for entering employment. The charity has set up and runs several programmes (training and integration into the workplace for women and young people) and a socially-aware company, in order to offer the most disadvantaged the opportunity to develop personally and professionally.
Since 2013, the Societe Generale Foundation has supported the development of a programme designed to combat illiteracy, with the main objective of professional integration for women.