"The Problem With the French Is That They Don't Have a Word for Entrepreneur."

Posted: 11 February 2011, in Blog

11 Feb 2011

“The problem with the French is that they don’t have a word for entrepreneur.” – (attr: George W. Bush)

Le Marseillaise despite its exhilarating and neck hair raising qualities is a helluva bloody martial anthem. The EU PC crowd would not let it get approved today as it is not very inclusive. Originally it was called Chant de guerre pour l’Armée du Rhin (trans: War Song for The Army of the Rhine).

The English seem to have “a problem” with the French and we even say “excuse my French” when we swear. We also call kissing whilst inserting a tongue in the recipient’s mouth as “French kissing”. There’s a lot going on with the French. No one in France has ever heard of the Entente Cordiale with Scotland.

I like France and the French and coming across an article on private social investment in France I now like them even more. Check out this article from Knowledge@Wharton


The article describes a French model of double bottom line investment using private capital. It also highlights a legal requirement for Pension Funds to invest 10% of their money in socially responsible investments. This has created an environment where some investors and Fund Managers are arguing that social investment can be done more efficiently through private capital than with public capital. In addition, this type of investment addresses all the “touchstones” that social entrepreneurs and social investors need addressed e.g. double bottom lines and returns for the investor.

An asset-management firm called PhiTrust is referred to. The company seeks “double bottom line” returns on its investments, combining financial and extra-financial objectives – such as governance, environmental concerns, and social impact. The firm has three arms: socially responsible mutual funds, a social venture capital fund called PhiTrust Partenaires and a grant-making foundation called La Fondation PhiTrust. Edinburgh could do with a few of these firms.

Now, I wonder what the French would make of our timidity with our sole Social Impact Bond experiment or UK Pension Fund managers who argue that in order to maximise returns for their investors/members/beneficiaries they cannot include ethical or socially responsible considerations in their decision making. That’s another thing about the French; their attitude to rules and (irrational) restrictions. They have different attitudes to us about public and private “moralities” and behaviours but if a rule is just plain stupid they will either ignore it or change it. British people would keep applying it till the death – even if it was the thing that was killing us.

So here is an idea, lets take all the Scottish Pension Fund managers to Paris and ask them to explain why they can’t or won’t invest in socially responsible enterprises.



Note: The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of the Scottish Social Enterprise Coalition.