Among the SEE MEMBERS
If one had asked one of the SEE members on the day of the release of the Social Economy Action Plan what was the feeling, the answer would have been one simple word: celebration. After 14 years of collective work and tireless engagement, members of the Social Economy Europe consider themselves satisfied for the outcome that the European Commission presented. Nonetheless, despite holidays are approaching, this can’t be a time to rest, but it is rather the starting point of a series of actions aimed at successfully implementing the plan. In fact, 2022 will be the time to scale up.
Before looking ahead, here is an overview of some of their reactions.
AIM focuses his attention on the definition of social economy, that is comprehensive in nature, as it takes into consideration four main types of entities providing goods and services to their members and society. In particular, AIM considers the recognition of specific features belonging to mutual benefit societies an actual step forward. Furthermore, the organization appreciates the emphasis that the Action Plan gives to the fostering of dialogue and collaboration among partners. Eventually, AIM acknowledges the importance of communication activities and monitoring with the aim to improve the recognition of the social economy.
While being persuaded that the Action Plan will raise awareness on the mutual insurance model across the EU, AMICE welcomes the recognition of mutual and cooperative insurers as key stakeholders in Europe’s social economy. It also underlines that the sector of insurance is not only an important contributor to long-term sustainability, but also a relevant actor within the social economy. The hope of AMICE is that the proposals contained in the action plan will grant a better reflection of the mutual structure and at the same time enable proportionality to be more appropriately applied.
CECOP underlines the inclusive nature of the definition of social economy, that renders the Action Plan broad and impactful, yet it recognizes the lack of a long-term vision with clear objectives at stake. Nonetheless, CECOP welcomes the acknowledgement of social economy, as an added value in the care sector, particularly with regards to social cooperatives. Two other relevant points include specific financial and non-financial support for workers buyouts of closing enterprises as well as members states’ guidance on state aid and taxation frameworks, that will turn in favor of social economy entities. Among the measures announced, the launch of new financial products under the InvestEU program and their subsequent impacts are key. Eventually, although the actions foreseen to attract social economy entrepreneurs in rural areas, more support should be provided to social economy enterprises, that are already established in remote and rural areas.
CEPES is persuaded that this Action Plan opens a new historical stage full of hope not only for those already engaged in the social economy sector, but also for those who will join in the future. According to CEPES, the two great achievements of the Action Plan are on the one hand the recognition of Social Economy enterprises and organizations as the engine of sustainable development and on the other, the provision of concrete instruments in order to allow for the growth of various actors in the social economy both in Europe and beyond the borders.
FEBEA, on behalf of ethical funders, underlines the twofold impact of the plan. On the one hand, the Action Plan is addressed to them in so far as social economy entails organizations such as cooperative, democratic and participatory organizational models, while having a mission to channel the money of citizens towards organizations that work to solve social problems and regenerate society and the environment. On the other hand, by promoting the development of social economy, the economic model supported by ethical funders could boost, since FEBEA is specialized in financing social economy organizations. In conclusion, FEBEA highlights that the potential of the plan lies in its translation into a stronger, more inclusive and more regenerative social economy at the national level.
PHILEA highlights the importance of the explicit recognition by the Action Plan of the issue of the tax treatment of cross-border donations to public-benefit organisations. Another relevant point is the fact that foundations are recognized as social economy actors, supporting social economy via their expertise, grants and mission-related investment of their endowments. Eventually, Philea is pleased that the Commission is willing to launch dedicated co-investment mechanisms with foundations and philanthropic organisations around different target mission areas.
Other partners and organisations
COOPERATIVES EUROPE highly appreciates the commitment of the Commission to recognize social economy enterprises within policy design. As far as the definition is concerned, Cooperatives Europe underlines its broad and inclusive character, while making it clear that it is necessary to take into account all types of cooperatives in order to have a far-reaching level playing field in the market. Furthermore, Cooperatives Europe recognizes the pivotal role of the measures, especially the EU Social Economy Gateway as well as the actions contained in the action plan. The hope for the way forward is to have clear strategic objectives and benchmarks at the EU level and at the same time to foster active coordination between the Member States.
EUCLID welcomes the Action Plan, in particular all the aspects that address wider policy and legal frameworks, allowing for a real impact from social economy ecosystems. The connection between policies and policy areas has, in EUCLID view, a great potential to eventually make social economy widely known. In this regard, mainstreaming social economy is and should remain under the spotlight. Furthermore, among EUCLID members, if the most appreciated elements are actions on recognition, social procurement and financing, yet they recognize the need of further action in specific fields. More precisely, impact measurement framework should embody profit distribution, gender equality and social procurement and data collecting projects shall go hand in hand with already established activities (e.g. European Social Enterprise Monitor). While EUCLID recognizes the historical momentum behind the social economy and social enterprises, it advocates the centrality of future actions to achieve effective implementation. In this regard, by acknowledging that the Plan is an undeniable step towards a better future, EUCLID is willing to support the work of the European Commission in implementation and communication.
ETUC supports the idea that the Action Plan undoubtedly sheds light on the social economy sector, boosting social economy itself. Although the Commission has proposed a modest set of initiatives, encouraging member states to do their part in the promotion of social economy, it does not explicitly make reference to the necessity to invest in well-functioning public services for the social economy to flourish. The public sector should rely on enough funds to guarantee good services, rather than cheap services.
Attention from the Media
It doesn’t happen every day, that the Financial Times dedicates part of its attention to social economy enterprises and organisations, but the world is changing and the potential of the social economy to build prosperous and cohesive societies is undeniable.
In his article, Martin Sandbu, European Economics Commentator at FT, celebrates the resilience of the EU to react to the COVID crisis, that was mainly reflected in the launch of the Social Economy Action Plan and in the proposal for a legislation on Digital Platform Workers. At the same time, negotiations in the Council concerning the directive on adequate minimum wages has succeeded in finding a compromise suitable for the Nordic countries. This new impetus of social market economy, however, is placed in a series of ongoing changes in the economic thinking that concern not only the EU, but also the global sphere, from the US to the UK, reaching Japan. In this framework, Europe is thus adapting to a global phenomenon, that supports its strengths, namely a system granting equality of incomes and a market whose rewards are likely to be equally shared. The article concludes by emphasizing that the social turn caused by the pandemic allowed Europe to regain its worth, rather becoming an example to follow.
Mario Calderini, journalist and academic professor at the School of Management at Politecnico di Milano, traces the contours of the Social Action Plan from a political perspective. Three are the aspects that he highlights. First, the Commission recognizes the pivotal role that the social economy entrepreneurship can play for a just and equal green transition. Second, social economy as well as the third sector are classified as fundamental features of industrial and innovation policies besides those related to the social field. Eventually, the Commission encourages social economy enterprises to contribute to the implementation of cohesion policies with the aim at reducing territorial inequalities. According to the author, the actual strength of the Action Plan lies in the recognition of social and proximity economy among the fourteen industrial clusters. In the same vein, the initiatives and actions at the core of the Plan demonstrate how the EU is enhancing its political role not only as a supporter of the social economy, but also as a promoter of growth and of a new welfare model. At the end of the article Calderini calls the Italian government to action in order to give a new impetus to the social economy and in particular to the Italian third sector.
The article is explanatory in nature, pointing out the main crucial aspects contained in the Social Economy Action Plan. It starts by emphasizing the willingness of the EU to perceive organizations and cooperatives belonging to the social economy sector as a collective entity, that will play a key role in the development of Europe as such as well as in the process of scale up. The article is then built around the three points upon which the Plan relies. First, the introduction of a clear legal and fiscal framework aimed at mainstreaming social economy. Second, the support to allow for the social economy scale up, with a special focus on young social entrepreneurs. Third, the focus on implementation and communication in order to allow for recognition of social economy potentials. To achieve all these objectives, the EU engages to support member states, especially those without a clear statute for the social economy. The action plan represents an historical attainment, yet the journey has just began.
In this article, Luca Jahier, former EESC President, acknowledges the breakthrough that the Action Plan represents, by mentioning three main key aspects. First, the systematic approach that the Plan adopts will prove to be an important driver to put in place the just transition as well as overcome the potential challenges. To support this, the social economy ecosystem has to develop at a multi-level scale. Second, according to him, the Plan seems to underline the interconnectedness that links social economy to different policy areas, while paying explicit attention towards innovation and new creations. Third, all the actions and initiatives contained in the Plan imply a formative aspect, meaning that there will be the necessity to acquire new competences, to face new fields of action, and to be ready to make an impact through policies and investments. To conclude, the author recognizes the efforts that the Commission made to actualize the Action Plan, that will surely play a leading role towards a European rebirth in the post-pandemic in the short-term and towards a bright future for 2030 and beyond.
READ OUT MORE!
Here are two insightful articles that summarise different reactions to the Action Plan from the social economy family: