“ETIs and SMEs will be the first victims of the current runaway around the environmental footprint if they do not react quickly”, alarm Nicolas Dufourcq, the boss of Bpifrance.
To accelerate the ecological transition and “put businesses in the green”, the public bank is launching a mobilization campaign. First stop in the viewfinder: future European obligations on the declaration of extra-financial performance under discussion in Brussels. They could lower the threshold for the companies concerned to 250 permanent employees, starting in the 2023 financial yearso very soon.
In this context, the bank will intensify its support for the reduction of climate and ecological impacts. It has set itself the target of 7,000 SMEs by 2024 but is launching as a priority, this year, the canvassing of 1,800 ETIs. “The reporting obligation already covers the more than 500 employees and only a third have done so », Points out Nicolas Dufourcq. The pressure mounts very quickly at the global level on the part of investors but also of the principals, according to him. Banks and other funds will quickly rule out any financing or acquisition deals with companies without a solid greening strategy. And large groups will no longer want to work with suppliers who have not done this work.
Bpifrance claims a strong ability to influence French companies: “We have an intimate relationship with 100,000 companies”, specifies its manager. In addition to the massive distribution of loans and guarantees and the organization of training via its accelerators, the bank sits on the board of directors of 800 companies, including 600 SMEs, and 800 investment funds. So many channels to make bosses aware of green issues.
“First consulting agency”
The public bank’s approach has been in place since 2020 and is based on a network of 400 external consultants and 70 internal people. “We have become the leading consultancy agency for SMEs in Europe,” says Nicolas Dufourcq. Companies are first offered impact diagnostics. And to finance the resulting measures, they can use the green loans distributed by Bpifrance on behalf of the State and which already represent a third of the credits it grants without guarantee. “We have granted one billion euros in green loans in 2021 and another 500 million will be consumed at the end of April”, indicates Anne Guérin, Executive Director Financing and Network.
Launched as part of the France Relance plan, these products will reach the ceiling of 1.5 billion planned for 2021 and 2022 at the end of the month. “We will probably make 2 billion”, slips the leader who confides studying with the State the possibility of opening a new billion this year.
Supported projects must meet the sustainable development objectives of the European taxonomy. 80% of those financed last year fell within the framework of the fight against global warming, 50% of the circular economy, 30% of water saving and pollution prevention, 20% of preservation of biodiversity and the ecosystem and 15% related to adaptation to climate change. They also allow to finance intangible investments such as training.
Poujoulat, a family ETI specializing in fireplaces and wood energy (300 million euros in turnover), has just obtained five million euros to partially finance a high-performance biofuel plant, an activity which today now 100 million euros in turnover and that the group wants to triple by 2026.
A diagnosis at 3,000 euros
In 2021, 900 companies benefited from these loans granted over 10 years, with 2 years of deferred amortization, between 50,000 euros and 5 million euros and an average amount of 1 million euros. 68% are SMEs and 27% ETIs, with a predominance in industry. All will have demonstrated beforehand – this is the prerequisite required by the Treasury – “that they are resolutely in the process of putting themselves in transition”, underlines Anne Guérin.
For 1,000 interventions carried out by the bank around green loans in 2021, 700 resulted in the start-up of the Diag Eco-Flux system. Launched in the fall of 2020 with Ademe, this assessment of water, energy, raw material consumption and waste production promises companies 48,000 euros in recurring annual savings, on average, for a cost from 2,000 to 3,000 euros.
This is sometimes the first step in talking about climate strategy with an SME manager. After his diagnosis, AgroNew Industry (11 million euros in turnover, 40 employees), fruit processor and jam maker has completely changed its steam production process and modified its refrigeration facilities to reduce its gas and electricity consumption.
The SME was almost able to finance the 300,000 euros invested in its new refrigeration units thanks to the Energy Saving Certificates (EEC). Above all, it recently obtained a green loan of 500,000 euros to finance the equipment necessary to self-produce part of its electricity. “500,000 euros at a rate of 1%, signed in fifteen days electronically and the work has begun”, summarizes its manager Yves Faure.