Toby Johnson
16 July 2014

Social Platform calls for a European action plan for the development of the social economy

Social Platform logo

The Social Platform, which brings together 47 umbrella organisations of social NGOs at EU level, has published a set of recommendations which it is presenting at an informal meeting of labour and environment ministers (the EPSCO council) tomorrow in Milan. Calling for a European action plan for the social economy, it echoes many of the conclusions SEN has been coming to – and also raises issues we shall be addressing at SEN’s 5th peer review in Cyprus on identity.

Structural Funds
On the Structural Funds, it says:

“A monitoring mechanism in the context of the European Social Fund should be set up to ensure that the 20% earmarking for social inclusion and fight against poverty is respected.
“Structural funds should be used to invest in the social economy as an important source of innovative responses to social challenges, as a tool to integrate people in a vulnerable situation into society, and as a source of competence development and employment creation.
“The implementation of the partnership principle within the EU structural and investment funds should ensure the representation of social economy actors.”

When Member States transpose the new public procurement directive, it says, they should enable the use of social clauses and reserved contracts for WISEs and non-profit social service providers. The EU should help Member States by issuing guidelines (this is somewhere SEN may be able to help by supplying examples of good practice).
Following up the SBI
The paper recalls the contribution the social economy is making to the Europe 2020 targets on employment, inclusion, poverty, education and the environment.
On following up the SBI, it believes that the focus should move to Member State level. More DGs should be brought into the fold, notably Research and Innovation, Regional Policy and Education. The European Parliament's Social Economy Intergroup should be continued.
Social economy is not the same as CSR
It also makes a stand on principle, calling for a clear distinction to be made between social enterprises and corporate social responsibility. The Platform thinks it is important that social enterprises should abide by all three of the features set out in the SBI documents, i.e. not only a primary social aim and profits "mainly" reinvested, but also democratic or participatory ownership and governance. It says:

“The Commission will thus have to ensure that the broad definition of “social enterprise” contained in the SBI will not lead to ordinary businesses pursuing a social aim only being considered equivalent to those achieving other social economy criteria. The objective is to reinforce the sector and not to open it up to enterprises that do not respect its historical specificities….
“The reinvestment of surpluses and the democratic or participatory governance aspect of the enterprise are gradually disappearing from the debate. If the second and third criteria of the definition are not guaranteed, then the social – societal mission of the enterprise risks being jeopardised….
“Private investors should not be allowed to get a return on the investment that is higher than what is available on the financial markets.”

This very welcome document can be downloaded here
Toby Johnson