The European Investment Bank (EIB) is providing ILUNION with €35 million in financing with the objective of creating jobs for people with disabilities and investing in improving energy efficiency, the European Commission said on September 26. This is the first loan made by the EIB to a social economy enterprise in Spain and it receives the backing of the Investment Plan for Europe, known as the Juncker Plan.

According to the Commission, the agreement was signed in Brussels on September 27 by Vice-President of the EIB, Emma Navarro, and President of ILUNION, Alberto Durán, during a ceremony attended by Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, and President of the ONCE Group, Miguel Carballeda.

ILUNION is made up of enterprises from ONCE social Group, Spain’s largest employer of people with disabilities. The EIB funding under the Juncker Plan will provide the financing necessary to enable the group to implement its investment plan until 2021. These investments concern the renovation of the group’s chain of industrial laundrettes to incorporate more energy-efficient technologies, the construction of a new hotel in Spain and the renovation of existing hotels, and the development of a range of devices to improve the lives of persons with any type of disability. All of these measures share a single objective: to promote the employment of people with disabilities. The project will, in fact, make it possible to create 200 new permanent jobs plus a further 725 during the implementation phase.

During the signing ceremony held today in the EIB offices in Brussels, Katainen said that the project shows perfectly what the European Fund for Strategic Investments was created to support: it is highly innovative, promoting social inclusion, energy efficiency and job creation. “ILUNION’s success shows us once more that doing good and running a successful business are perfectly compatible. The Commission has put forward a pillar of social rights and is committed to increasing social investment, and this project is the embodiment of this commitment. And we aim to do even more to support the social economy in the future through the InvestEU Programme,” he said.

For her part, Navarro said the EIB is delighted to support a project which will have a direct impact on creating employment for people with disabilities, and which will lead to the development of new technologies to contribute to their integration. “With this first loan to a social economy enterprise in Spain, the EU’s bank achieves one of its biggest priorities: investing in energy efficiency – especially in the industry and tourism sectors, which are fundamental to the Spanish economy,” Navarro said.

Carballeda thanked the EIB and the Commission for their commitment to supporting disabled people and said the Group was “absolutely determined to create a more social Europe.” He also highlighted that the Juncker Plan was a very important tool in the development of stable, sustainable and inclusive economies in Europe.

Durán added that the agreement between the EIB and ILUNION will help to improve the social inclusion of people with disabilities, mainly through employment and improvements to the accessibility of products, services and working environments. “It will also serve to modernise industrial facilities such as our laundrettes and our hotels enabling us to attain excellence in responsible environmental management. The ONCE social group, which has been in existence for 80 years, has made ILUNION an inclusive social-economy success story, which is continuing to grow and have positive effects on society, generating social and economic benefits,” Durán said.

Thanks to the agreement signed with the EIB, ILUNION will be able to renew the equipment in its laundrettes, thus saving up to 60 Gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity each year. With these investments it will be able, for instance, to increase its energy efficiency by reusing the heat generated in the washing processes. Work to refurbish and re-equip its hotels and equipment will be carried out in ILUNION’s premises in Andalusia, Extremadura, Castile-La Mancha and Murcia. Among other things, this will make the buildings more accessible to people with disabilities. The project includes the construction of a new hotel in a convergence region in Spain.