For this last episode of the 5th season of Urban Chronicles “CSR & Real Estate”, we met with Eric Groven, Real Estate Director of the French Networks, Société Générale and Chairman of SOGEPROM, as well as Sponsor of the Greater Paris urban development programme, and Christophe Dumas, CEO of the start-up LaVilleE+, resulting from Société Générale Group’s internal startup creation programme.
During this interview, we discussed Société Générale’s ambitions in terms of responsible finance and their vision for the sustainable and agile city of tomorrow, commitments shared by Green Soluce. Also, discover how the startup LaVilleE+ wishes to become a reference partner for Société Générale and its customers.
Green Soluce: How is Société Générale engaged in the ecological and social transition of the real estate sector?
Eric Groven: Société Générale is actively involved all along the sustainable real estate value chain: we support the cities of tomorrow, as illustrated by our “Sustainable Cities” strategic axis, and also the builders – from design to construction – through the Group’s real estate subsidiary, SOGEPROM. Société Générale is also very involved in the “Grand Paris” project. We have set up a dedicated cross-functional team and the Group will mobilise up to €2.5 billion in credits by 2020 through its various departments and businesses.
“Business as usual” is no longer an option in a context of population growth, diminishing natural resources and rapid technological change. Société Générale is convinced that the future is based on a new approach: We developed the “Sustainable and Positive Impact Finance” (see scheme below), whereby the Group strongly commits to strengthening its sustainable financial products offering through various expertise and services.
Addressing positive impact with Société Générale’s sustainable financing and investment solutions and services
Green Soluce: What are your objectives for this new “Sustainable and Positive Impact Finance” approach?
Eric Groven: Our commitments are strong and ambitious. For example, we have committed to contribute €10 billion between 2016 and 2020 to finance the energy transition.
Real estate is a keysector for achieving our objectives, and SOGEPROM an essential player, as well as all the partners currently developing new approaches and solutions to support Société Générale and SOGEPROM in their ambitions. I am thinking in particular of LaVilleE+ (villeagiledurable.com), an initiative resulting from Société Générale Group’s internal start-up creation programme. LaVilleE+ is a strategic coaching structure aimed at decision-makers in the public or private sector. It is an operational support tool for project management assistance that brings together a set of technical expertise for the development of ambitious real estate projects at the scale of a district. It is a complementary service for Société Générale’s clients supporting the development of the city of tomorrow.
Green Soluce : What are the key findings of LaVilleE+ ?
Christophe Dumas: Our thinking is based on three structuring observations. First, we believe that the city must be designed in a holistic and systemic way across all three pillars of sustainable development. The added value of LaVilleE+ is the integrated vision it offers, unlike solutions designed in traditional silos. It will also have to integrate digital technology because everything will be increasingly interconnected: communicating, moving or creating energy.
The added value of LaVilleE+ is the integrated vision it offers, unlike solutions designed in traditional silos.
Secondly, the city must be designed for its users and therefore with its users. In this respect, from the design stage onwards, we must integrate a set of stakeholders to co-develop projects using innovative and adapted methodologies.
Finally, the city must be agile in the sense that it must be polymorphic: be able to change, to change destination, even during the study or implementation phases. For example, a reversible building must be able to change from an office use to potentially becoming a hotel or even a residential home. Our objective is also that a neighborhood that is rehabilitated can generate positive impacts by percolation, even to replicate its DNA: our goal is not to create “virtuous ghettos”.
To conclude, the city of tomorrow must be both agile and replicable. Its development will be based on good practices and services that can be easily deployed and replicated in neighbouring districts.
Our goal is not to create “virtuous ghettos”.
It will be interesting to review the projects selected by the competitions “Inventing the Metropolis of Greater Paris”, and “Reinventing Paris” in their two editions to compare the promises made at the beginning and what really came off the ground.
Green Soluce: How do you see the future collaboration between LaVilleE+ and Société Générale?
Christophe Dumas: LaVilleE+ is part of Société Générale’s ecosystem of innovative partners. We wish to become the reference partner for Société Générale’s clients in the context of new neighbourhood development projects. Our objective is to enable local authorities to develop their real estate projects by focusing on the notion of impact to implement solutions that really create value locally. This innovative approach is also a response to the expectations of funders and investors regarding the overall positive impact generated by their investments.
Eric Groven: Today, we are not building the city in the same way as yesterday. As a builder of the city, LaVilleE+ has a differentiating approach through impact and, as a financing entity within the city, Société Générale is developing a sustainable approach with a positive impact. Our synergies will be a major differentiating force for our customers, serving the agile and sustainable city of tomorrow.
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