Cooperatives, the third way forward for business

In 2001, when it was born, it was a legal UFO, halfway between an association and a company, with limited profits and local communities in its capital, along with employees, customers, suppliers … (gathered in a college of votes).

Twenty years later, the Collective Interest Cooperative (Scic), which is part of the cooperative movement, has grown and established itself: more than a thousand companies have chosen this status. They are of particular interest to the younger generation, who are searching for the meaning of their professional lives and motivated by the search for economic solutions to the environmental and social crisis.

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However, it took a long time to rise in status. Questionable: its legal complexity (simplified by the Solidarity Economy Act 2014); the need for time to make itself known to business creation specialists; and the need to act collectively. But in five years their number has doubled.

Adjustable salary »

Matthew Castaing has every opportunity to talk about it. A chartered accountant in Bayonne, he created the Scic Finacoop, which helps cooperatives… structure themselves. “With limited profitability and controlled wages, we are shocking traditional companies that are looking to make a profit at any cost. At SCIC, money is a tool in the service of collective interests: our thirty employees, our clients and the places where we live.” explains it thirty-something. Finacoop already has branches in Paris, Bordeaux and Rennes and is encouraging the transformation of large structures for even greater visibility.

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In this spirit, Finacoop has become a Chartered Accountant of Licoornes (1), those Scics committed to green transition and digital tools: Enercoop, which supplies green electricity, Railcoop, an alternative to rail operators, or Citiz, a network of carsharing vehicles. … “We try to implement local solutions for the benefit of residents and the environment”, says Jean-Baptiste Schmieder, president of the Citiz federation and creator of the soft mobility structure in Strasbourg. “This is the third path between the public and the private sector, which combines citizen participation and a goal of common interest. »

Individuals who receive capital shares in a cooperative society of collective interest make a civic choice because they receive no or very little remuneration. Therefore, they are of little interest to private investors. On the contrary, cities and regions see them as new vectors for creating jobs. Thus, at least one local authority is a member of each of the eight SCICs in the Citiz network. To shore up their funds, starting Licoornes requires a subscription to their shared website.

“good shareholders”

Established in 2016, Label Emmaüs is one such unicorn, a testament to the interest of Christian movements in cooperatives. This digital platform allows solidarity economy entities such as the Emmaüs groups, as well as the Red Cross or Envie, to sell used goods to private individuals. Profit from the commissions paid by these sellers is fully transferred to the cooperative for the fulfillment of its social mission and the development of other projects. “Scic allows us to support our priority goals of integrating people in need, highlights Maud Sarda, co-founder of Label Emmaüs. We could start a commercial company, but that would affect our public mission. »

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The same desire to share wealth created differently led Ateliers du bocage, the Emmaus group, to transform itself eight years ago. This former Deux-Sèvres association now has 175 employees, many of whom are disabled or former unemployed, and has a turnover of €14 million in 2021. She repairs and resells computers and phones.

“We have conscientious shareholders, insists Antoine Drouet, director of Ateliers du bocage. About forty groups of Emmaüs, our employees, the regional council of New Aquitaine. They guarantee our social and ecological project. Choosing a form of business instead of staying in an association has given us new opportunities. But our shareholders are still attentive to patient development. We do not enter into new contracts if they do not create jobs. »

“Guarantees in the management of Ehpad”

Several Relay companies collecting fabrics for Emmaus have also opted for a cooperative form. Another Christian movement has shown great interest in the democratic power of this model: the federation Habitat et Humanisme, founded by Father Bernard Devert to restore mixed housing in the city centre. Its subsidiary Habitat et Humanisme Soin operates some fifty Ehpads in France, including Versailles, which was converted to Scic ten years ago with social services.

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“The cooperative allows you to put guarantees in the management of Ehpad, says Corinne Beben, Desk Officer for Habitat and Humanism Care. We proceeded from the needs of the people in order to remain accessible to everyone (daily price is set at 75 €). And the management board welcomes representatives of patients and their families. » All Ehpad employees approved the project.

The model is successful in health and social care, integration or ecological transition, but not only. Thus Bastia football club became Scic, just as the Lyon branch of Presstalis, which distributes the national press, became Oyé Distribution. MP Ann-Laurence Petel (LREM) has just introduced a bill in favor of Scics. “This is the shape of the future, she points out. It responds to local issues by engaging citizens in public policy, and to national goals such as climate action and inclusion. »

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