Viewpoints from four years of ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Énergies investment in the solidarity economy and energy access
ENGIE formed the ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Energies solidarity investment company in 2011 to combat energy poverty and promote access to sustainable energy for impoverished communities. Its management team reports on the past four years of activity in Europe, Asia and Africa.
"Today, 20% of people around the world still have no access to electricity. Even in Europe, one person in four is in energy poverty. As a responsible company and a world leader in energy supply, it was our responsibility to do something about this situation."
This explanation of the reasons why ENGIE launched the ENGIE Rassembleurs d'Énergies initiative in 2011 comes from Anne Chassagnette, Group Head of Environmental and Social Responsibility. The basic idea is for the Group to take action in its operating countries and regions by supporting projects that promote access to sustainable energy for vulnerable communities. So a solidarity investment company was formed to achieve this goal.
Commitment and progress
Coordinated by a team of five, ENGIE Rassembleurs d'Énergies is a French simplified joint-stock company (SAS) and works in tandem with the ENGIE Corporate Foundation and the Group's internal NGOs: Codegaz and Energy Assistance.
"Our ambition differs from that of a standard fund," explains ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Energies CEO Laure Vinçotte. "The social and environmental impact we aim to achieve is more important than the financial performance that underpins the long-term future of the fund. Essentially, we're about commitment and progress."
To date, €4.1 million has been invested in 10 companies, with individual investments ranging from €150,000 to €1 million. "Last year was the most active in our history, with 6 new investments made," continues Laure Vinçotte. "We plan to support selected companies for between 5 and 8 years, after which our goal is to reinvest in other projects."
The ENGIE Rassembleurs d'Énergies Flexible corporate mutual investment fund (FCPE), which invests its solidarity funds in the joint-stock company, achieves a yield of 17%.
Five major families of investment
Until now, ENGIE Rassembleurs d'Énergies has focused its involvement on five distinct areas: energy efficiency in Europe, solar power and micro-grids in Africa and Asia, the use of biomass in a social rehabilitation company supported by ENGIE Italia, and biogas.
Some of these projects have already reached a very mature stage, including Foncière Chênelet and Habitat et Humanisme in France, both of which help vulnerable people to live in buildings that deliver superior energy performance. Other examples include Village Ventures and Simpa Networks in India, which offer individual domestic solar power systems for urban and rural communities to provide lighting and cell phone charging.
This year, ENGIE Rassembleurs d'Énergies will move up to the next level with a presence in Mexico, and the introduction of improved energy-efficient cooking stoves.
What is a solidarity investment fund?
French FCPEs are ethical corporate mutual investment funds that invest between 5% and 10% of their assets in socially supportive companies. The remaining 90% is invested in SRIs (Socially Responsible Investments).
Corporates that offer their employees a company savings plan (Plan d'Épargne d'Entreprise / PEE) or group retirement savings plan (Plan d'Épargne pour la Retraite COllectif / PERCO) must offer investors the option to invest in this type of fund. At ENGIE, 7,400 employees have already invested in the ENGIE Rassembleurs d'Énergie FCPE.