Built on a cooperative foundation, Up group is one of the major players in the social and solidarity economy (SSE), a growth sector combining modernity, innovation, societal and sustainable development features.
The expression Social and Solidarity Economy is used to designate companies and not-for-profit organizations, the internal modus operandi and activities of which are more focused on social or environmental added value than on financial profit.
The SSE is represented by the following four main families: Cooperatives, Mutual societies, Managing associations and Foundations. These types of organizations operate through democratic and participatory processes and strictly supervise the way in which profits are used. Any profits are never used to increase individual wealth, but are instead systematically reinvested.
In any social economy organization, power sharing and added value are approached from the standpoint of fairness.
HOW DOES THE SSE WORK?
In France, the SSE today accounts for approximately 10% of GDP and 12% of private employment. Adopted on July 31, 2014, the SSE law clearly defines the legislative framework for the SSE, enabling this particular form of entrepreneurship to fully develop.
The social economy is based on the following principles:
Freedom of membership:
no-one can be compelled to join or to remain a member of a social economy organization.
Individual not-for-profit principle:
this principle does not preclude gaining financial surpluses, but prohibits individual appropriation thereof.
strategic decisions are made by the General Assembly following the principle “one person = one vote”.
Public or social usefulness of the project or pooling of resources:
a social economy organization necessarily serves a collective aim, and not an aim pursued by a single individual in his own interest. For instance, employees of production cooperatives (cooperative company) are regrouped to leverage the fruits of their labor together.
Variety of resources:
resources in this sector are either private (cooperatives and mutuals), or mixed (not-for-profit associations). Social economy organizations are independent of the public authorities, but may be recognized as a privileged partner in the implementation of public interest policies (employment, health, local development, citizenship, North-South solidarity, etc.) and consequently be entitled to grants, specific aids for employment or tax benefits.
Up group meets the criteria of SSE principles: its management and governance are governed by the cooperative principles of the parent company, which translate into a strong involvement of employee-members in the strategic decisions of the group.
UP GROUP: THE SUCCESS OF THE COOPERATIVE MODEL
Established in 1964, Up (ex-Chèque Déjeuner), the group’s parent company, belongs specifically to the category of cooperative, a status which implies that the company is subject to the profitability imperatives of a business, but based on democratic and participative processes.
The cooperative company is the only form where associates (members) are the employees. They hold the majority interests, i.e. at least 51% of share capital. The cooperative model is present in all sectors of the economy, and competes with other businesses. Profit-sharing is carried out on the basis of fairness: a portion is paid to all employees in the form of bonuses and profit-sharing, another portion is attributed to employee-members in the form of dividends, and another portion is allocated to the company’s reserves. These reserves may not be shared and they are final; they contribute to the development of the cooperative by consolidating equity and ensuring continuity.
The company Up was created in 1964, and is 100% owned by its employees with no external shareholders. The employees participate in strategic decisions and elect the Board of Directors. The Board then appoints its Chairman: Catherine Coupet is the current CEO of the Group. In over 50 years of existence, Up group has only had three CEOs.
Present in 17 countries as of 2016, Up group is maintaining the vitality of its model, and is promoting the cooperative values that have given it sustainability and independence.
The Mont Blanc meetings
The association The Mont Blanc meetings (non-profit organization under the law of 1901) was established in 2005, as a result of the aspiration of leaders of SSE enterprises to come together to jointly develop projects combining social, civic, environmental and economic efficiency.
Its mission? To demonstrate by example that it is possible, thanks to the social and solidarity economy (SSE), to do business in a different way, with an aim of global sustainable development.
The Mont Blanc meetings association organizes several regular events:
- biennial events in Chamonix (France) during which SSE leaders from around the world gather to take a stand on major international issues;
- continental events, the purpose of which is to work for the recognition of the SSE and the promotion of social and solidarity enterprises all over the world.