Imagine that your banker recommends that you buy shares, bonds or other savings products assuring you of financial profits while supporting environmental enterprises or services for the elderly. Private investment is a powerful tool through which to contribute to the development of social entrepreneurship and thereby to social Europe and the Europe of competitiveness. Nicolas Hazard, vice-chair of the French Groupe SOS, one of the biggest social enterprises in Europe (see box), has also set up the Comptoir de l'innovation (Innovation Counter), the first fund that invests only in social enterprises so that they can develop. Its investors are big traditional banks, insurance companies and wealthy individuals.Europolitics interviews him.

What do you ask of Europe and of public authorities in general?

We're not asking for subsidies, but recognition of our sector as a full economic activity. That is the case today in France, where the government has a minister delegated to the social and solidarity aspects of the economy who is part of the Ministry of Finance. This is far from being the case everywhere in Europe. Of all the regulations that the EU can put in place, we welcome those that make conditions for investors more flexible.

What is this French specificity that you're defending?

This is one of our sources of great national pride. In 2002, more than ten years ago, a law was adopted that obliges all asset managers, such as banks and financial institutions, for wage-related savings or retirement savings plans, to offer a wage-related savings product with a solidarity element that is channelled into social enterprises. The consumer, namely the saver, has a choice. He can say if he wants it or not, but the bank is obliged to offer it to him. That's a fairly clever method because, for once, we're not in a situation of coercion. There is no financial tax to be paid.

And what's the result of this?

Wage-related savings related to this solidarity element hit 500,000 ten or twelve years ago and today account for over 4 billion (see box). It has really made it possible to increase budgets. That's because it's the people who decide. People are not at all as grasping as one might believe. Many want them, but not everyone. Every year, we do a poll and we ask: are you ready to invest in a savings product with a solidarity element? Well, over 60% say 'yes'. Many also say they're not familiar with it. So let's be clear. We need to...

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