We, actors of the social and solidarity economy (SSE) in Europe, call for an ambitious European policy aiming at making Europe the world epicenter of the SSE.
The challenges facing Europe today – be they political, geopolitical, economic, ecological or social – oblige us to rethink our economy in favor of a system that is more respectful of people and nature.
The European Union cannot tolerate 72 million people living below the poverty line and 15% of young people aged 15 to 29 without job nor training. These are alarming numbers, aggravated by the cumulative effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the climate crisis. These figures also contrast with record-breaking economic growth.
Economic performance and common good can no longer be opposed. They meet in the social and solidarity economy, which is composed of social enterprises, cooperatives, associations (including charities) and foundations. They all maximize their social and environmental impact rather than their financial profit.
The social economy, the future of Europe
The SSE is the future of Europe; it’s also its roots. As early as 1957, the Treaty of Rome mentions « economic and social progress » as an objective. In 2007, the Treaty of Lisbon made the « social market economy » a reference combining economic prosperity, social justice and environmental protection. This triptych is also at the heart of the Green Pact for Europe of 2020, as well as the Action Plan for the Social Economy of 2021. We salute the acceleration of this movement.
The social economy already represents more than 13 million employees across Europe, spread over nearly 3 million structures. It accounts for 25% of the continent’s new business creations. This is just the beginning, and the world is watching. Our European SSE genius inspires major international organizations. The SSE is on the agenda of the 110th session of the International Labour Conference, as well as on the agenda of the UN, which is already preparing a resolution for worldwide recognition of the SSE.
Based on our experience in the field and the expertise we have acquired over the years, we are proposing three levers of action to amplify this dynamic.
- Recognizing the social and solidarity economy in national, European and international law
The development of the social economy is currently slowed down by the absence of a clearly defined European legal framework. National legislations are heterogeneous, and sometimes non-existent. It is urgent to recognize the specificity of SSE organizations at the European level in order to encourage their financing and their internationalization. The leadership of the EU must also be strengthened at the global level. This is why EU Member-States must stand together behind the project of the UN resolution of recognition of SSE.
We also need to define common tools and standards for measuring social and environmental impact – the same way that we share accounting and financial standards which, for the moment, are only oriented towards financial performance.
- Strengthening financing tools dedicated to SSE organizations
Existing financing tools do not always match the specificities of SSE organizations. It is harder for them to get access to equity and loans. As for projects financed by European funds, they require significant administrative resources, with long delays.
We advocate for a strong development of capital and debt funding tools dedicated to social innovation, for example by allocating a part of employee savings funds. Access to these funds should be open to early-stage startups, and to all types of organizations, including associations and cooperatives. It is also necessary to simplify the application processes for European funds, so that small structures can apply.
- Generalizing work-integration programs in the 27 countries of the EU
Work Integration Social Enterprises give both a salary and a training to people who are far from the labour market. They rely on public funding covering a part of the employment costs, with significant leverage effects: they unlock self-confidence in finding a job, they fight unemployment, they help reduce informal economy, territorial fractures and inequalities. Yet this type of public support is absent from many European countries.
We ask for a strong political will at the European level, to encourage all Member-States to adopt ambitious policies of inclusion through employment, in particular through the local financing of work-integration programs dedicated to the most vulnerable people.
The social economy, the economy of peace
SSE is an economy of peace, redistribution of wealth and inclusion of all social and environmental impacts. It has the potential to make Europe the greatest social and ecological economic power. This is why we, European actors of the SSE, call on our European leaders to seize our proposals to make Europe the world epicenter of the social and solidarity economy.
Signed by 33 Social and Solidarity Economy players from 16 European countries:
Belgium: EVPA, Bantani Education, Pour la Solidarité
Croatia: Uni. of Zagreb’s Faculty of Food Technology and Biotechnology
Denmark: Sociale Entreprenører i Danmark
Estonia: Sotsiaalsete Ettevõtete Võrgustik (Social Enterprise Estonia)
France: Groupe SOS, FAIR, Impact Tank, Pulse, Impact Business Angels
Germany: Pleistocene&Permafrost Foundation, Uni. Heidelberg Germany and Cancer research center, Higher Order Strategy, Cabinet Collective, Broadcast.org Media Foundation
Ireland: The Wheel
Italy: Venezia Autentica and Overtourism Solution
Latvia: Latvijas Sociālās uzņēmējdarbības asociācija
Netherlands: Catalyst2030, Designathon Works, Circular investment
Northern Ireland: Alison
Portugal: i3L – Social Impact Investments, Girl Move Academy, Action for Systemic Impact
Romania: Ateliere Fără Frontiere
Slovenia: Foundation BiT Planota
Spain: Grupo5, Efecto Colibri, Uni. Pontificia Comillas, ICI Network
Sweden: Forum for Social Innovation Sweden
For more information please consult the Euractiv website.