Emmaüs Défi

La solidarité est une idée neuve / Solidarity is a new idea

Wednesday 10 October 2012, by Boris Chevreau

2 inspired

A. The main facts about the activities of the company.

One of us had the chance to volunteer a couple of times for this company and discovered it from the inside, and has thus transmitted the passion for this business model to the entire group.
Emmaus Défi is a unique entity created by a businessman, Charles-Edouard Vincent, graduated from l’X, and Martin Hirsh, former president of the French association (NGO) Emmaüs France. It is a for-profit social company specialized in reselling recycled and donated products for a fair prize while employing social workers. It employs most exclusively people in a precarious housing situation and aims at recreating social link. It collects all the goods that Emmaus Paris cannot take care of, and those located in areas not managed by Emmaus. Objects collected are sold directly in the bric-a-bracs of Jourdan Boulevard and 104 to various customers, poor and rich, along with young and elder people. Moreover, supported by funding which is given to them by environmental organizations for that matter and given the particular provenance of the goods, Emmaus Défi helps recycling and reducing the amount of waste in Paris. With 20 supervisors and a network of more than 200 volunteers, Emmaus Défi is a impressively big organization aimed at providing reinsertion in the society, a “social integration construction site” (chantier d’insertion) that managed to keep its simplicity and accuracy for the local social impact.

B. The Ethical challenges this company is addressing.

The whole purpose of Emmaüs Défi is to propose another vision of business, in which every part of the supply chain has ethical concerns and addresses solutions to sociological problems.

• The Wage-earners
Associations promoting insertion of underprivileged and homeless people with the help of Emmaus Paris provide workers to Emmaus Défi, which offers them an employment contract and the chance to start again a professional activity, earn a minimum wage to improve their social status, and a specific care for giving them the best tools to insert themselves back in the active life. The workers themselves are thus the main ethical concern of the company, that aims at providing an effective tool for insertion of “difficult” workers in the society while giving them a goal, a reason to hold on to life, and accompany them toward reinsertion in the society.

• The Collection and recycling
Emmaus Défi collects goods (clothes, cutlery, furniture, white goods…) from Emmaus Paris in the sole purpose of reconditioning them and reselling them to local customers. A large part of the items collected is also brought by individuals, usually local citizens and helpers from the neighborhood. It represents more than 40sqm of textile every month given to the center, and more than 1,200sqm of sale surface. It is thus a tremendous way of recycling and participating to a new way of consumption, not based on accumulation of brand new products but rather on a sustainable and durable consumption, using second-hand products as the basis for a reduction of waste in Paris. Moreover, Emmaus is linked with ad hoc recycling platforms for all unmarketable products, and give the surplus to specific companies including Le Relais (NGO specialized in collection and resell of textile products) and Ecosystème for the electric and electronic equipment wastes (D3E).
Emmaüs Défi wants us to realize that another path is conceivable, and addresses that question: Do we really need to buy new products to achieve satisfaction and fulfill our needs?

C. What makes you believe this company is really ethical and why you trust it?

This company inspired us because even if it is a for-profit organization, the main strategy of the company is based on maximizing social benefits rather than profit, while keeping a money-making course of action. And this benefits to the workers and environment of course, but also on customers themselves.
In fact, Prices are fixed by the Senior volunteers and account for a very low price especially because the target consumers are known to be in precarious situations as well most of the time. In addition, because of its particular legislation as a social integration construction site, Emmaus Défi’s turnover cannot exceed 30% of their budget. Although the company managed to negotiate a derogation for a turnover going up to 50%, the prices proposed for its products are by fact most of the time under-evaluated and attract a lot of resellers, bric-a-brac traders and secondhand goods dealers. But the managers themselves know that those products are a god-sent opportunity for local families and students. During our day as volunteers there, one of the senior volunteers confessed us that they usually keep goods for the afternoon in order to provide good deals for students and families that are not able to come in the morning and rush hours, to be sure that those goods can be actually provided for a low price to the people in real need for them, and who would get the maximum social benefit out of them.
In this way, the company is extremely reliable in addressing ethical benefits, since every part of the supply chain has social implications: the workers are underprivileged and get re-insertion through their work at Emmaüs Défi, the goods are collected and participate to recycling, and they are sold at a fair price, most of the time to citizens in real need for discounted and “social priced” goods.
We believe this company is thus one of the best examples of an accurate balance between profitability and social responsibilities.

D.The possible challenges facing the company in the future and how you think this company may improve.

The challenges at stake for Emmaüs Défi are economic, social and managerial issues that appear as long as this type of company grows.
First of all, its particular business model makes it a very fragile company that is in constant need for donations, financial support and accurate ressource management to ensure its sustainability in a particularly competitive context. For this, an important focus has to be made on marketing and PR strategies, to ensure that its genuine business model gets the word-of-mouth it deserves, and that people go on with donations and helps of any kind.
New projects are now under construction in order to cater to new social stakes: access for underprivileged people to telephony solutions (Téléphonie Solidaire), help to equip people with access to their first accommodation (Bank for Support of Equipement, Banque Solidaire d’Equipement).
Finally, through their fight for granting homeless and underprivileged people a job and some training, Emmaüs Défi will have to reinvent itself in the future, proposing new certificates and solutions so that those people can effectively get permanent employment after their journey in the company.
And to be able to develop and propose an efficient answer to those new stakes, the company will have to manage to grow reasonably but steadily, by creating new centers and point of sales in Paris and other big cities, and by successfully reproducing its business model in other locations.

Location: 75019 Paris (France)

Sector: Wholesale and retail trade

Official website: http://emmaus-defi.org

Key figures:

300 employees went through Emmaüs Défi integration system since its creation.

95% became active again.

93 hours realised on average by an employee inside the system.

95% transformation rate in "24 hours insertion contract"

Nbr. visits: 347

Nbr. inspires: 2