From Social Economy Europe Network

Social Economy Europe (SEE) is satisfied with the European Commission’s recently issued SME and Industrial Strategies and Circular Economy Action Plan, aiming at ensuring the EU leads the twin transitions towards climate neutrality and digitalisation, which have recognised the strategic role of the 2.8 million social economy enterprises and organisations to achieve a diverse and competitive economy that works for people and the planet.

SEE President Juan Antonio Pedreño declared: “We are pleased to see that the European Commission recognises the potential of the social economy, as well as its already existing commitment and different activities relevant to the twin transitions. The Commission is moving in the right direction to make sure that social economy actors are part of the main economic, social and environmental policies of the European Union”.

Mobilising the Industry and SME Strategies to boost the
Social Economy 
The SME Strategy recognises the role of the social economy as a driver of the sustainable transition: “Almost a quarter of SMEs in Europe already enable the transition by offering green products or services and many SMEs -including social economy enterprises– are already doing a lot for the communities where they are based.”

Furthermore, SEE welcomes the capacity-building instruments deployed by the Commission to support small and medium-sized enterprises, including social economy enterprises and organisations, in facing the transition to sustainability and digitalisation. SEE is ready to cooperate with the European Commission to ensure that initiatives such as the European Resource Efficiency Knowledge Centre (EREK) and the Digital Innovation Hubs are accessible and useful for social economy enterprises and organisations.

Regarding the Skills Agenda for Europe and the Pact for Skills, SEE welcomes the efforts to boost the uptake of digital skills and calls on Member States and EU Institutions to include social economy entrepreneurship in the curricula of all levels of education and training. This would be an opportunity to boost the diversity of entrepreneurial models and to attract individuals towards collective entrepreneurship, bearing in mind that social economy business models reply to the growing demand for  a more responsible, democratic and solidarity-based economy at the service of people. The specific managerial skills required by social economy enterprises, such as participative leadership, should also be promoted, also because of their potential to inspire traditional enterprises.

SEE reminds that social economy enterprises and organisations, such as cooperatives, mutuals, associations, foundations and social enterprises, among other legal forms specific to each Member State, face significant barriers to operate trans-nationally in the Single Market. To overcome these barriers, SEE calls on the Commission to further provide clear guidance to Member States wishing to develop legal frameworks for the social economy, ensuring the convergence and the effectiveness of these regulations. Moreover, SEE stresses the strategic importance of the ongoing EU study on Promoting Cross Border Activities for Social Economy, Including Social Enterprises and affirms its readiness to contribute with concrete policy recommendations.

Public procurement, accounting for around 14% of the EU’s GDP, represents a key leverage to promote social economy enterprises and achieve strategic public policy objectives. In this area, SEE wishes to congratulate the European Commission for its efforts to promote socially responsible public procurement through projects as Buying for Social Impact and #WeBuySocialEU. Division of large contracts into smaller lots, e-tendering, pre-market consultations and the inclusion of social and environmental considerations -among other legal instruments as reserved contracts to Work Integration Social Enterprises- should become the new norm.

SEE also appreciates the commitment of the Commission to further facilitate business transfers, including business transfers to employees under the form of a cooperative. The existing legal and financial tools supporting business transfers to employees should be further promoted as a successful way of saving jobs and enterprises.

To conclude, SEE welcomes the willingness of the European Commission to mobilise financing for SMEs and social economy enterprises through the InvestEU programme  in particular through its policy windows on SMEs and on Social Investments and Skills aiming at improving access to microfinance, financing to social economy enterprises, social and impact investment and skills. SEE recalls that it is fundamental to adapt these instruments to specificities of the social economy’s business models and to involve social economy financial experts (ethical and alternative banks, cooperative banks, micro-credit, credit unions etc.) in the governance and advisory bodies of the future InvestEU programme.

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