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Procedure : 2012/2004(INI)
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PV 19/11/2012 - 26
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PV 20/11/2012 - 6.18
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Tuesday, 20 November 2012 - Strasbourg
Social Business Initiative

European Parliament resolution of 20 November 2012 on Social Business Initiative – Creating a favourable climate for social enterprises, key stakeholders in the social economy and innovation (2012/2004(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the regions of 18 April 2012 ‘Towards a job-rich recovery’ (COM(2012)0173),

–  having regard to the working document of the Section for the Single Market, Production and Consumption on the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions ‘Social Business Initiative – Creating a favourable climate for social enterprises, key stakeholders in the social economy and innovation’, INT/606 of 22 February 2012,

–  having regard to the Proposal of the Commission of 8 February 2012 for a Council regulation on the statute for a European foundation (COM(2012)0035),

–  having regard to the Proposal of the Commission of 20 December 2011 for a directive on public procurement (COM(2011)0896),

–  having regard to the Proposal of the Commission of 7 December 2011 on a regulation on European Social Entrepreneurship Funds (COM(2011)0862),

–  having regard to the Communication from the Commission of 25 October 2011 ‘Social Business Initiative – Creating a favourable climate for social enterprises, key stakeholders in the social economy and innovation’ (COM(2011)0682),

–  having regard to the Communication from the Commission of 25 October 2011 on a renewed EU strategy 2011-14 for Corporate Social Responsibility (COM(2011)0681),

–  having regard to the Communication from the Commission of 13 April 2011 ‘Single Market Act – Twelve levers to boost growth and strengthen confidence. Working together to create new growth’ (COM(2011)0206),

–  having regard to the Communication from the Commission of 27 October 2010 ‘Towards a Single Market Act – For a highly competitive social market economy’ (COM(2010)0608),

–  having regard to the Proposal from the Commission of 6 October 2011 on a European Union Programme for Social Change and Innovation (COM(2011)0609),

–  having regard to the Communication from the Commission of 3 March 2010 ‘Europe 2020 – Delivering smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ (COM(2010)2020),

–  having regard to the Proposal of the Commission of 6 October 2011 for a regulation on the European Social Fund and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1081/2006 (COM(2011)0607),

–  having regard to the Communication from the Commission of 16 December 2010 'The European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion: A European framework for social and territorial cohesion' (COM(2010)0758),

–  having regard to the publication of the United Nations Development Programme and the EMES European Research Network of 2008 ‘Social Enterprise: A new model for poverty reduction and employment generation’(1),

–  having regard to the exploratory opinion of the EESC of 26 October 2011‘Social Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprises’ IN/589,

–  having regard to its resolution of 19 February 2009 on Social Economy(2);

–  having regard to its declaration of 10 March 2011(3),

–  having regard to its resolution of 13 March 2012 on the Statute for a European Cooperative Society with regard to the involvement of employees(4) ,

–  having regard to Rule 48 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and the opinions of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy and the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (A7-0305/2012),

A.  whereas enterprises of the social economy, employing at least 11 million people in the EU and accounting for 6% of the entire workforce or 10% of all European enterprises, that is, 2 million enterprises, significantly contribute to the European social model and to the Europe 2020 strategy;

B.  whereas different historical developments have led to legal frameworks for enterprises of all sorts, including enterprises of the social economy and social businesses, to show significant differences across Member States;

C.  whereas most types of enterprises in the social economy are not recognised by a legal framework at European level and are only recognised at national level in some Member States;

D.  whereas the effects of the current social, economic and financial crisis, as well as demographic changes, in particular the ageing of the population, challenge social welfare systems, including statutory and voluntary social insurance schemes, and therefore innovative social assistance systems should be promoted in order to ensure adequate and decent social security;

E.  whereas the Single Market Act and the Europe 2020 strategy – which both aim to establish smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, and thereby to raise the quantity and quality of jobs, and to fight poverty – are strongly inter-linked, and whereas social enterprises can contribute significantly through their innovation potential and their relevant response to social needs;

F.  whereas the Commission recognises social economy actors and social enterprises as drivers of economic growth and social innovation, with the potential to create sustainable jobs, and of encouraging the inclusion of vulnerable groups into the labour market;

G.  whereas the Commission's proposals for a regulation on European Social Entrepreneurship Funds and the Programme for Social Change and Innovation (PSCI) should be welcomed;

H.  whereas social enterprises can help deliver social services which are key components of a welfare state and thereby contribute to achieving shared objectives of the European Union;

I.  whereas many social enterprises face difficulties in accessing finance in order to expand their activities, and therefore need specific, tailored support such as social banking, risk-sharing instruments, philanthropic funds or (micro) credits, especially in case of micro enterprises and SMEs; whereas, in this respect, EU Structural Funds and programmes play a significant role in facilitating access to financing for social enterprises, also for those with a high investment intensity;

J.  whereas most social enterprises promote policy reform by promoting good governance, in particular by involving workers, customers and stakeholders, and support mutual learning and social innovation, and thereby respond to growing demands of citizens for ethical, social and environment-friendly corporate behaviour;

K.  whereas social businesses, by their nature and modus operandi, contribute to establishing a more cohesive, democratic and active society, and often offer – and should offer – favourable working conditions as well as equal pay for equal work, and support equal opportunities for men and women, thereby enabling the reconciliation of working and private life;

L.  whereas the Commission’s proposal to add the new category of disadvantaged persons to reserved contracts is noted;


1.  Welcomes the Commission Communications ‘Social Business Initiative’ and ’Towards a job-rich recovery’, with recommendations to national governments on improving the framework conditions for social enterprises which can lead to new opportunities and jobs, inter alia in the fast-growing area of health and social care (the so-called white sector) and in the environmental area (the so-called green sector) – two areas that offer new chances to the social and wider economy;

2.  States that the social economy is part of the eco-social market economy as well as of the European single market, and points to its high resilience to crises and to its solid business models; underscores that social enterprises often seek to meet social and human needs which are not – or only inadequately – met by commercial operators or the state; stresses that jobs in the social economy are more likely to be kept local;

3.  States that social enterprise means an undertaking, regardless of its legal form, which:

  a) has the achievement of measurable, positive social impacts as a primary objective in accordance with its articles of association, statutes or any other statutory document establishing the business, where the undertaking:
   provides services or goods to vulnerable, marginalised, disadvantaged or excluded persons, and/or
   provides goods or services through a method of production, which embodies its social objective;
   b) uses its profits first and foremost to achieve its primary objectives instead of distributing profits, and has in place predefined procedures and rules for any circumstances in which profits are distributed to shareholders and owners, which ensure that any such distribution of profits does not undermine its primary objectives; and
   c) is managed in an accountable and transparent way, in particular by involving workers, customers and/or stakeholders affected by its business activities;

Recommended actions for various types of enterprises

4.  Emphasises that activities carried out by volunteers in various sectors of the social economy – including young people, starting their careers and bringing their enthusiasm and new skills, as well as elderly people, having vast experience and developed skills – constitute an important contribution to economic growth, solidarity and social cohesion, and give many people a meaning in life; asks for recognition and appropriate financial and structural support at local, national and European level;

5.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that social enterprises should not be disadvantaged by other types of enterprises that ‘cherry-pick’ lucrative areas in the social economy; points out that these areas are mostly urban, so that other less profitable, mostly rural or peripheral areas – where logistics result in higher cost – are left with fewer and lower quality of services; stresses that users should have freedom of choice among a plurality of providers;

6.  Stresses the importance of a strategy and of measures promoting social entrepreneurship and innovative social enterprises, especially with regard to young and disadvantaged people, in order to ensure better and easier access for entrepreneurs – both women and men – to EU and Member States' programmes and funding; calls for adequate support to continue the Erasmus For Young Entrepreneurs programme to improve its attractiveness and visibility also in the social economy; recalls, however, that self-employment has to be accompanied by the provision of sufficient guidance;

7.  Notes the diversity within the social economy; stresses that the development of any new legal frameworks at EU level should be optional for enterprises and preceded by an impact assessment to take into account the existence of various social business models across the Member States; stresses that any measures should demonstrate EU-wide added value;

8.  Supports initiatives at EU level to extend and strengthen the already advanced association sector in various Member States; calls for a European statute for associations to complement existing legal statutes at Member States’ level;

9.  Welcomes the Commission’s intention to present a proposal for simplification of the regulation on the Statute for a European Cooperative Society;

10.  Welcomes the Commission’s study on the situation of mutual societies in Europe with close involvement of the sector; stresses that mutual societies should, by means of a European statute, be recognised as a distinct and important actor within the European economy and society; underlines the benefits of a European statute to facilitate cross-border activity of mutual societies; encourages Member States that not yet introduced a national statute for mutuals to do so;

11.  Welcomes the Commission’s proposal for a regulation on the Stature for a European foundation statute;

12.  Recalls that in COM(2004)0018, the Commission committed itself to twelve concrete actions to support the development of cooperatives, and deplores the fact that so far only little progress has been made; calls on the Commission to ambitiously propose − in line with the 2004 initiative − further measures to enhance the operating conditions for cooperatives, mutuals, associations and foundations, and thereby support the development of the social economy in general;

13.  Welcomes the adoption of the revised package of EU state-aid rules concerning social and local services whilst encouraging the Commission to further clarify these rules so as to facilitate their understanding and application by local and regional authorities, in particular with regard to social enterprises;

Enterprises fulfilling social objectives or achieving social impact

14.  Stresses that social enterprises are important provides of Services of General Interest (SSGI); points out that such enterprises often stem from, or are closely linked to, civil society organisations, voluntary organisations and/or welfare associations providing person-oriented services and designed to respond to vital human needs, in particular the needs of users in vulnerable position; points out that social enterprises often find themselves between the traditional private and public sectors delivering public services, i.e., in the framework of public procurement;

15.  Considers that the notion of corporate social responsibility (CSR) should be viewed separately from that of the social economy and social enterprises, even though commercial enterprises with significant CSR activities can have a strong interconnection with social business;

Financial Perspectives – improving the legal and fiscal environment

16.  Believes that the PSCI programme for 2014-2020, with its microfinance and social entrepreneurship axis, contributes to the effort to guarantee better access to micro-credits for micro-enterprises in the social economy while taking into account the diversity of funding needs of social enterprises;

17.  Believes that different financial instruments – such as the European Social Entrepreneurship Funds, the European Venture Capital Funds and the European Angels Funds (EAF) – are needed to improve access to financial markets for social enterprises;

18.  Stresses the need to support social enterprises through sufficient financial means at local, regional, national and EU level, and points to the relevant funds under the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020 (such as European Social Fund, the European Regional Development Fund, the Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, the Programme for Social Change and Innovation, the Programme for Research and Innovation, as well as Horizon 2020); explicitly asks support for innovative social enterprises, in particular those promoting quality employment, combating poverty and social exclusion and investing in education, training and life-long learning;

19.  Underlines that access to EU funding must be simplified while allowing for adequate flexibility at Member State level, and that funding opportunities should be made available and clearly advertised and, in addition, that organisational, administrative and accounting requirements should be simplified;

20.  Points out that the introduction of new forms of financial support will be preceded by an analysis of current instruments in order to verify their efficiency, and therefore considers it necessary to obtain the tools to measure and compare the social return on investment in order to promote the development of a more transparent investment market;

21.  Considers it necessary to create conditions under which social enterprises can gain financial independence and engage in commercial business activity;

22.  Believes that accountable management processes, supported by funding mechanisms subject to proper monitoring and transparency, are necessary to retain the focus of social entrepreneurship and social business;

Measurements, support and promotion

23.  Calls for a comparative study, initiated by the Commission and carried out in cooperation with social enterprises, of the various national and regional legal frameworks throughout the EU, and of the operating conditions and characteristics for social enterprises, including their size and number and their field of activities, as well as of national certification and labelling systems;

24.  Emphasises that there is great variation among social enterprises in terms of form, size, business activity, economy and co-operation; notes that there are social enterprises that are leaders in development in their spheres and that have adequate capacity for their own development, but that there are also those that are in need of know-how when it comes to establishing, developing and managing their enterprises;

25.  Considers that, in order to increase the competitiveness of social enterprises across the EU, it is necessary to encourage the creation of social innovation clusters, which have added value beyond just the local area; considers, moreover, that social enterprises, if provided with adequate incentives, can be vital for the employment of qualified workers aged over 50 who have left the labour market;

26.  Supports the Commission proposal to set up a multilingual, accessible and user-friendly online platform for social enterprises that should, inter alia, enable peer learning and the exchange of tried-and-tested models, foster the development of partnerships, facilitate information-sharing about access to funding and about training opportunities, and that should serve as a network for cross-border cooperation; calls on the Commission and the Member States to pay attention to social business under the Open Method of Coordination;

27.  Supports the Commission’s proposal to set up an expert group on social business (GECES) in order to monitor and assess the progress of the measures envisaged in its Communication COM(2011)0682;

28.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to consider the feasibility and desirability of developing a ‘European social label’ to be awarded to social enterprises to ensure better access to public and socially innovative procurement without infringing any competition rules; suggests that enterprises bearing such a label should be monitored regularly regarding their compliance with the provisions set out in the label;

29.  Calls for EU public procurement rules that apply the principle of the ‘most economically advantageous tender (MEAT)’ rather than the principle of ‘lowest cost’ when contracting service provision out;

30.  Asks the Commission to improve the understanding of, and the knowledge about, social enterprises and the social economy, and to improve the visibility of both, by supporting academic research, inter alia in the context of the 8th Framework Programme (Horizon), and to launch a regular activity report on social enterprises and their social performances; asks the Member States to follow-up on the Commission’s call for proposals to have reliable statistics on social enterprises developed by national statistical offices;

31.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to integrate social enterprises in employment and social inclusion action plans, and supports the establishment of a ‘European Award for Social Entrepreneurship’ to recognise its social effects;

32.  Points out that social enterprises require a maximum of support and acceptance through awareness–raising, not least by highlighting benefits beyond those of a purely economic nature, and calls for a broad information campaign, supported by the Commission, the Member States and social partners, to be launched by means of introducing an accessible, multilingual website that provides quick and easy information on social products and services for citizens;

33.  Calls on the Member States to consider the benefits of including principles of social business/social entrepreneurship and social responsibility in the content of teaching programmes of schools, universities and other educational institutions, and in life-long learning programmes, in order to help develop social and civic competences and to support job placements in social enterprises; calls as well on the Commission and on the Member States to support conventional and web-based education of social entrepreneurs and to promote a closer cooperation between social enterprises, commercial enterprises and the academic world in order to raise awareness, and a better understanding, of social enterprises, as well as to fight any stereotypes that might exist;

34.  Considers that the introduction of a common European framework for data publishing will guarantee clearer and more effective information on investments in social enterprises;

35.  Welcomes the Commission’s commitment to study and consider the possibility of social enterprises using sleeping patents to facilitate their development, and hopes for concrete action in the near future;

o   o

36.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the Governments and Parliaments of the Member States.

(2) OJ C 76 E, 25.3.2010, p. 16.
(3) OJ C 199 E, 7.7.2012, p. 187.
(4) Texts adopted , P7_TA(2012)0071.

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