Filed under: Best Practices in France | Tags: BPCE, Eco-Pret a Zero, Micro-credits
Arnaud Berger, Deputy Co-Director at the Sustainable Development at the BPCE Group
BCPE Group is the 2nd largest French Bank, with 120.00 employees, 37 million clients and over 8000 bank agences. The Group is a created by a merger of the Banque Populaire and the Caisse d’Epargne this year.
Sustainable Development team. Arnaud Berger is Deputy Co-Director Sustainable Development. Jean-Baptise Sarlat is project manager Sustainable Development. Berger started his carreer at Banque Populaire in 1999, Sarlat in 2006.
Sustainable Leader in French Banking Sector. The Group BPCE offers as of 1989 Solidary and Ecological Finance products. The bank has the broadest portfolio and represents the largest value of Sustainable Finance Products in France. No less than 23 products are labelled by the French Association Finansol. The loans to finance ecological renovation (PREVair) represent currently a value of more than 120 million euros.
Dutch Rabobank inspires. To BPCE, Rabobank is a good example. Like Rabobank does, also BPCE is working with the National Environmental Ministry to define the fiscal aspects – read : tax deduction policy – of Green Funds. Certainly, BPCE adds a French flavour. A typical Banque Populaire choice, according to Berger, is for instance the assistance to families in difficulties with micro-credits.
Sustainable Mission. BCPE wants to contribute to long-term wealth for its members, customers the environment and territories. It favours an economic model maintaining the environment and solidarity. By its saving and credit products, it actively contributes to solidairy and ecological investments.
Corporate Responsibility History. 2001 has been of great importance. All French banks were obliged to create a Corporate Social Responsibility Report as of that year. Since, BCPE and its legal predecessors, have encorporated the Social and Environmental Report as a Chapter in the Annual Report, using the International GRI and French NRE guidelines as a reference.
Successfactors : Staff Training and Regional Projects. BPCE pays a lot of attention to internal communication and training of staff members. All employees are supposed to actively propose appropriate sustainable products when talking to potential customers. Because of the cooperative character of the bank, regional banks have much freedom to choose regional ecological projects. Consequently bank employees, enterprises and customers feel connected, which encourages use of Sustainable Finance products.
1. What are the CR objectives ?
Preserving the Environment and Social Balance by Sustainable Finance Products. Banque Populaire wants to influence sustainable behaviour and investments by their Finance products and services. CODEVair was the first ecological and fair savings account in France, with guarantee that 100% of the money will be used to finance ecological projects in his region through the PREVair loan.
Preserving the Environment by Sustainable Behaviour Stimulus. ‘Gestes Verts’ are actions to create public awareness about the environment. One example is the Balloon in the Paris Park André Citroen. It is a joint project of Banque Populaire, Paris Major and Aerophile. The balloon colour is an indication of the air quality.
The Balloon in Park André Citroen in Paris
Be solidary with the less privilaged. Families and enterprises in difficulty are supported with micro-credits.
Partner cooperation with government and innovation pioneers. In many regions, The BCPE banks cooperate with public organisations. For instance, Banque Paribas Lorraine-Champagne and the regional conseil of Lorraine have created the ‘Pret Climat Lorraine’. It is a zero interest credit to be used for well defined ecological investments and related to the Eco-Pret a Taux Zero %, installed by Minister Jean-Louis Borloog with the Grenelle d’Environnement. Ecological investments could be an engagement for financing either a renovation of house, or reduction of energy use or reduction of green house gas emissions.
2. Is Sustainable Development a motor for Innovation ?
Yes, Responsable Objectives give an impuls to Innovation. Berger and his team continuously try to improve the Finance Product Portfolio to meet the social and environmental challenges.
Banque Populaire Sustainable Finance Products
Further refinement of current portfolio. BPCE has a wide portfolio of Finance products for individuals and professionals. Some examples of the BPCE Finance Product Portfolio :
Livret DD savings account, representing a value of 7 billion euros. The Livret DD is a French Government obligation with maximum savings of 6000 euros. The money is used as a loan to SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) or private persons to finance ecological building improvements.
CODEVAir savings account, labelled by Finansol, representing a value of 200 million euros. It is a special BPCE savings account for ecological housing construction work. The saving are used to finance solidary projects, which are selected and labelled by Finansol.
PREVair loan, on the basis of CODEVair and LDD savings. People can profit from a 25-50% tax refund when the loan is used for particular insulation works, new heating or hot water installation on the basis of renewable energies. The ecologic renovation works are approved and labelled by the governmental state agency ADEME.
Social Micro-Credit : Small credits (500-3000 euro ) to people in delicate financial situations to finance personal projects like housing and education to get access to the job market.
AUTOVair. Another Particular BPCE Finance Product is the AUTOVair as of 2008, dedicated to loans for low carbon emission cars (< 120 CO2/km).
3. Does the economic crisis impact CR Activities ?
Like in all industries and all disciplines, the economic crisis makes budgets shrink. However, the ‘Developpement Durable’ politics of BPCE are part of Corporate Strategy. The Sustainable Finance Products are the flagships of this strategy and will therefore certainly remain.
4. What is the Outlook with respect to Sustainable Development ?
Berger and Sarlat expect that Responsable Citizenship and Corporate Responsability will continue to play an important role. People will expect banks to explain how the finance products influence ecological and solidary investments in a positive way. A trend has been set.
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