The roots of Societe Generale's charity initiatives
Created in 2006, the Societe Generale Corporate Foundation for Solidarity strives to fight inequality by promoting the integration of the most disadvantaged in society.
A major commitment whose roots lie at the start of last century, and thanks to which the Group has a prominent position in the field of charitable projects and organisations.
In the early part of the 20th century, government involvement in charity work was sporadic and inconsistent. Joining the reformist movement that spread throughout France in the Belle Époque period before the Great War, large companies began to play a part. With a proactive policy open to social progress and mutual wellbeing, Societe Generale strove to raise funds to help the most destitute and promote their professional integration. Being from a humble background himself, Louis Dorizon, the Bank's Chairman, provided the impetus. It was an immediate success. To his great satisfaction, the idea resulted in a surge of generosity amongst the Bank's teams. Every summer, the Club Athlétique de la Société Générale (CASG) sports association invited its customers and members of staff to take part, in a festive atmosphere, in charity sports events. In the Bank's branches, collections and raffles took place every Christmas to raise funds for various charities. An illustration of this participative trend, July 1909 saw the creation within the Bank of "La Solidarité", a friendly and fraternal philanthropic association whose aim was to "contribute to social progress […] and humanitarian causes". Indeed its motto was clear and concise: "One for all, all for one".
In the lead-up to the Great War, its actions refocused on childhood, education and socio-professional integration. True to its commitments, Societe Generale called on every type of devotion. From 1911, it granted the first scholarships for schoolchildren from the poorest backgrounds. In collaboration with other banks, it gave its support to the "Orphelins de la banque et de la bourse" (bank and stock market orphans) institution, an NGO based in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil. Throughout WW1, it launched forceful appeals for solidarity. Under the auspices of the "Gouvernement de Défense Nationale", donations and subscriptions – from France but also from its overseas subsidiaries – enabled it to provide assistance to widows, orphans and victims of accidents. It was behind the "journées d'entraide" (volunteer days) fundraising initiative. With a similar strength of conviction, it provided help to public hospices and healthcare facilities, and notably the Paris Saint-Joseph hospital, in order to help the disabled.
Beyond its solidarity and citizenship work, Societe Generale set an example within its own teams by promoting the principle of equal opportunities. In 1934, it opened a school for porters to provide these young assistants – often the breadwinners for their family, from poor neighbourhoods and with only basic education – with the means to develop their skills, improve their mobility and make it easier for them to move up through the ranks. This initiative highlighted the in-house spirit that contributed to training a generation of executives, a lesson still hasn't been forgotten today.