Social economy enterprises and organisations are economic and social actors present in all sectors of economy and society.
European Social economy is made of 2 million enterprises, representing 10% of all European enterprises, and employ over 14 million paid employees (the equivalent of 6.5% of the working population in the EU).
Above all they are characterised by their purpose: a different model of enterprise, which continuously associates the general interest, economic performance and democratic governance. Social economy enterprises main purpose is to serve their members rather than maximise profits.
The Social Economy includes cooperatives, mutual societies, associations, foundations, as well as new forms of social enterprises which share social economy’s values, defined in Social Economy Europe’s Charter of principles.
Social Economy is everywhere, for anyone. Social Economy enterprises and organisations are particularly active in the following domains: social security, social and health services, insurance services, banking services, local services, education, training and research, social tourism, renewable energy, consumer services, industrial and agrifood production, handicraft, building, residential environment and cooperative housing, associated work, as well as in the domains of culture, sport and leisure activities.
Social Economy enterprises and organisations are an integral part of the European social model and play an important role within the objectives of European policies, in particular for employment, social cohesion, entrepreneurial spirit, governance, local development etc., to which they actively contribute.
Social economy enterprises and organisations are present in many different forms, at all levels, national and European, but its roots are local.
The Social Economy creates new quality jobs and has the capacity to meet today’s challenges, not only through labour-intensive production, but also through new technologies. It also contributes to the social integration of vulnerable sectors of society.
By linking economic aspects with social aspects, by establishing partnerships with the public sector, private enterprises and trade unions with a view to developing areas and making them more cohesive, Social Economy helps businesses to gain a local foothold in a globalised economy.
Social economy enterprises and organisations are distinguished from capital-based companies by a set of specific shared values and characteristics:
The primacy of the individual and the social objective over capital
Democratic control by the membership
The combination of the interests of members, users, and general interest (society)
The defence and application of the principle of solidarity and responsibility
Reinvestment of the surplus to carry out sustainable development objectives, services of interest to members or of general interest
Voluntary and open membership
- Autonomous management and independence from public authorities