The Societe Generale Corporate Foundation for Solidarity was created in 2006 and focuses on combating inequality and working to integrate the most disadvantaged.
This is a strong commitment, with a history that goes back to the beginning of last century, and through which the Group can legitimately claim pride of place in the world of charitable action and community projects.
Early in the 20th Century, the public authorities played only a sporadic role in social welfare. Under the influence of the reformist movement that swept through turn of the century France during the Belle Époque, major corporations were persuaded to make contributions. Taking an entirely voluntary and open approach to social progress and mutual well-being, Societe Generale worked to gather special funds to support the most disadvantaged and to help with their professional integration. The drive came from Louis Dorizon, the bank's General Manager, who came from a disadvantaged background. Success came quickly. To his great satisfaction, the scheme immediately stimulated a flow of generosity from his teams. Each summer the Societe Generale Athletics Club (CASG) brought customers and colleagues together to take part in charity sport events for everyone to enjoy. Branches held collections and tombolas at Christmas time, in support of charity associations. Further evidence of this community impetus was the foundation within the bank, in July 1909, of "La Solidarité", an association built around friendship, philanthropy and fraternity, with the aim of supporting "prosperous progress in social affairs [...] and humanitarian causes". Its motto certainly left no room for ambiguity: "One for all, all for one".
Shortly before the First World War, this benevolent initiative began to focus on childhood, education and socio-professional integration. Societe Generale remained faithful to its commitment, calling in all pledges. The first educational grants were made as early as 1911, to children from very underprivileged backgrounds. In partnership with other banks, Societe Generale supported the non-profit organisation "Orphelins de la banque et de la bourse" which enabled financial institutions and the stock exchange to support orphans on premises in Argenteuil, in the Paris suburbs. Throughout the First War it continued to make strong appeals for solidarity. Under the auspices of the National Defence Government, using gifts and subscriptions from France and also its foreign subsidiaries, the bank was able support widows, orphans and the victims of disasters. It took the initiative in instituting "help one another days" to collect funds. The same conviction was brought to bear on providing support to nursing homes and public health establishments, in particular the Paris Saint-Joseph hospital, to bring assistance to persons with disabilities.
Going beyond this charitable and citizen-focused work, Societe Generale showed the way within its own teams, by promoting equal opportunities. In 1934 the bank set up a school for "grooms", to give these young bank workers - who were often the family breadwinner and came from poorer quarters with only rudimentary eduction - the opportunity to develop their skills, helping them develop and progress more easily up the hierarchy. It was an initiative that revealed much about the spirit of the organisation, and which played a part in training a generation of executives. It was a lesson that is still applied today.
Farid Ameur, Historian
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