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Montpellier Méditerranée, an area fostering the Social and Solidarity Economy

Information updated on 29/03/22

Many companies in the Montpellier Métropole area have focused their attention on the Social and Solidarity Economy sector. Here is a presentation of their desire to pursue entrepreneurship differently.

Dispositif Achats – Quartiers
Ecosec is present throughout France with its innovative, ecological purification solutions for urban environments. Founded in 2015 in Montpellier, the company has developed a line of dry toilets and composters that has found real success in the market.
Now with ten employees generating annual revenue of about 600,000 €, the young company has a customer portfolio that includes the cities of Paris and Lyon, as well as festival and major event organizers. In partnership with Montpellier Métropole, ACM Habitat (the local public housing agency), and Les Petits Débrouillards, Ecosec has created an experimental plant-based air conditioning solution, irrigated by purified shower water, as part of a collaborative project dear to the company: Cycloasis, a program to cool the city and buildings using vegetation.
Are they a producer company like so many others? Not really. Ecosec is an “SCOP” company, a cooperative and participatory company under French law. Its employees and managing director earn exactly the same salary.

“I wanted my company to reflect my own needs and values,” explains Benjamin Clouet, creator and managing director. He holds a degree in civil engineering and has worked for major groups such as Bouygues and Vinci during his career.

With its strong and dedicated performance on the societal and environmental front, Ecosec has become an emblematic example for the social and solidarity economy, whose values are based on general public interest, democratic governance, limited profit-making, free participation, and local roots adapted to the needs of the territory and its residents.
Emerging from a desire to build a more unified and more participative society, the social and solidarity economy sector comprises business organizations built on a different type of entrepreneurship, with associations, cooperatives, mutual companies, foundations, and commercial companies dedicated through their by-laws to a social- and solidarity-oriented approach. Some social and solidarity companies are startups, and some are from the hi-tech industry.
Many of these companies are active in the Montpellier Métropole area, such as SCOP3 (focusing on giving professional equipment a second life); Boost (ethical and responsible e-commerce logistics); Hygie Sphère (specialized in ecological cleaning); Drive de l’Artisan (a platform for buying and selling reusable equipment); along with companies in the Cultural and Creative Industries sector such as Nobody Studio and Les Fées Spéciales.
This diversity has made Montpellier Métropole an area where the social and solidarity economy shows considerable vitality. All the more so, as the involved companies and organizations also handled health crisis challenges somewhat better than their peers, notably thanks to required levels of indivisible reserves that they must establish, as well as their ability to take action quickly in order to meet company needs.
The sector is growing in the Montpellier Métropole area. 12.7% of the region’s jobs created in the sector are concentrated locally, a fact highlighted by CRESS Occitanie in the 2021 edition of its regional Social and Solidarity Economy report. That represents 2,232 employer establishments, 26,364 employees (20,909 full-time equivalent jobs), that is, 12% of all local jobs and 17% of the private-sector jobs in the Montpellier Métropole area.
One of the reasons for this is that the sector benefits from both a favorable environment and political commitment.

“Montpellier Métropole and the city of Montpellier want to build a more unified territory that is inspiring, innovative, and virtuous, and which participates actively in the ecological, energy, and solidarity transition. In this context, the values inherent to the social and solidarity economy are aligned with our own values. Notably, they reconcile social utility, democratic governance, entrepreneurial drive, and ecological commitment,” observes Caroline Dufoix, municipal councilor in charge of the social and solidarity economy and reduction of substandard housing.

In concrete terms, that means providing support for network leaders and organizations helping to create and develop companies and activities related to the social and solidarity economy. Montpellier and Montpellier Métropole both also support organizations assisting job inclusion efforts, as well as neighborhood-oriented initiatives such as creating social and solidarity grocery stores, and a range of actions seeking to create bridges with the business world.
Aware that public procurement is an effective tool, Montpellier Métropole supports Coventis, a conference for socially responsible business and purchasing. In addition, after developing a collaborative platform dedicated to integrating social clauses in procurement contracts, Montpellier Métropole and the city of Montpellier are working internally on a mechanism for promoting socially and ecologically responsible public procurement (Spaser). Montpellier Métropole also supports a variety of other innovative actions, such as the creation of Cooperative Collective Interest Companies and third spaces in order to continue building the territory’s social and solidarity economy.
This determination was not overlooked by Andreina Severi and Pauline Ducept, who launched a project called La Cantina. Founded as an association, La Cantina is an ethical and inclusive restaurant that elaborates its menus based on unsold fresh food products purchased from producers and organic markets. Its menu, which already features reasonable rates, will also include differentiated social pricing.
The two young women are currently looking for a location in one of Montpellier’s priority districts, and are elaborating their project with the benefit of advice from Montpellier Métropole teams.

“Our approach consists of fighting to eliminate waste and create links by valorizing organic foods and farmer-to-consumer circuits that respect the environment. We can see clearly that Montpellier Métropole shares our same values,” add Andreina Severi and Pauline Ducept, who truly hope to set up their restaurant in the Montpellier Métropole area.

Circular emulation!
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