De betekenis van sociaal ondernemerschap is groeiende. Het kan daarbij gaan om corporaties, burgerinitiatieven en financiële instellingen gedragen door de gemeenschap. Alleen Nederland telt al meer dan 5000 initiatieven, waarbij niet winst maar sociale doelen het uitgangspunt zijn. In heel Europa werken zeker 11 miljoen mensen voor sociale ondernemingen, zo’n 6 % van de werkende bevolking.
Tijdens de bijeenkomst van ‘Chairpersons of the Committees on Employment and Social Affairs’, die gisteren en vandaag in de Letse hoofdstad Riga is gehouden, heb ik een pleidooi gehouden voor ‘sociaal ondernemerschap’.
Op de bijeenkomst, georganiseerd door het Letse voorzitterschap van de EU, kwamen samen de voorzitters van commissies uit nationale parlementen zowel als uit het Europees Parlement, die zich bezighouden met werkgelegenheid en sociale zaken. Ik ben zelf vice-voorzitter van de commissie werkgelegenheid van het Europees Parlement. Aanpak van de torenhoge werkloosheid met name door het scheppen van duurzame werkgelegenheid was de focus van de bijeenkomst.
“Vandaag benadrukken we sterk het belang van start-ups en kleine ondernemingen voor de economische ontwikkeling en het scheppen van banen. Ik doe een beroep op iedereen om ook te focussen op sociale ondernemingen. Als we duurzame groei willen, waar iedereen van mee profiteert, is het noodzakelijk niet alleen de zakelijke, maar ook de sociale kant van ondernemen te stimuleren’, aldus Jongerius.
Zie hier de volledige tekst van mijn bijdrage in Riga.
The importance of Social Entrepreneurship for sustainable economic growth
(by Agnes Jongerius)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure for me – as a vice-chair of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs- to represent the European Parliament here today.
By bringing such a range of representatives from the Member States and the EU institutions together, this meeting provides a good opportunity to discuss some of the most important topics in the field of employment and social affairs.
I want to talk to you about a topic that is often underestimated or even forgotten: social entrepreneurship.
Social entrepreneurship is a concept that is hard to define. I believe the core of social entrepreneurship is that it is an entrepreneurship that aims to provide innovative solutions to unsolved social problems. Social enterprises exist in many different organisational forms – cooperatives, citizens’ initiatives, community based financial institutions – but have one thing in common: Its primary objective is not to make profits but to achieve positive social impact.
As I mentioned before: this type of enterprises are often underestimated. However, these businesses are by no means a niche part of the economy. In my home country, the Netherlands, there are already over 5000 of these social enterprises. On a European level, in 2012, social enterprises employed at least 11 million people in the EU and accounted for 6% of the entire European workforce.
These social enterprises have proven to be successful in many ways. Compared to standard business models social businesses have a more dedicated staff, with sick leave at only half of the level found in regular businesses and with management and administration costs significantly lower that their market based counterparts.
Moreover, during the ongoing financial and economic crisis social enterprises have proven to be more resilient in times of crisis compared to traditional business models. In France, for instance, between 2008 and 2009, employment with social enterprises has increased by 2.9 %, compared with a fall of 1.6 % in the rest of the private sector and of 4.2 % in the public sector. In Spain, employment in cooperatives has been seen to be recovering faster than in other enterprises: following a decrease in 2008-9 and stagnation in 2010, employment in worker cooperatives grew by 4.7 % in 2011, while in other companies it continued falling.
The European Commission has been working to assist social entrepreneurs with a number of concrete actions. The European Social Business Initiative, which was launched in 2011, aims to create across Europe a favourable environment for the development of social enterprises by identifying priority measures to be taken. These measures are related to the significant barriers that European Social Enterprises face to their development:
First of all, there is still a huge lack of visibility and understanding of this economic sector with the general public. At EU level there are no comparable statistics for social enterprises that could give a detailed picture about the scale and dynamics of social entrepreneurship activities in the EU. This leads to a lack of awareness and recognition of the social value that it generates.
A second challenge is the lack of financing opportunities. Social enterprises often face difficulties accessing the same type of financing options available to conventional enterprises. Therefore they often need tailored support such as social banking, philanthropic funds or microcredits.
A third challenge for social enterprises in Europe is the lack of uniform legislation across countries. They are recognised and regulated differently in different countries, and this poses a significant barrier to their development, particularly across national borders. In many countries these types of companies evolved from the bottom up, without comprehensive policy support or regulatory frameworks that could contribute to their development and growth.
In 2012, the European Parliament published a report on social entrepreneurship – the Becker report – and added an extra challenge: the challenge of using social entrepreneurship to tackle youth unemployment. By giving young people a first work experience or help them gain professional skills, social enterprises often help young people to integrate into the labour market. On the other hand, we see young people are searching for a way to contribute to society. Young people want to do more than just making profit, they want to make a difference and they want to contribute to their communities. Participating in or even setting up a social enterprise can help them with that.
I call upon the Commission to take into account this recommendation of the European Parliament when setting up their future plans to tackle youth unemployment.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Especially in times of crisis we need to think out of the box. Europe is still facing a massive unemployment of over 11%, with unemployment rates peaking at more than 20% in countries like Spain and Greece.
If we want to tackle this issue we need to start raising awareness about the opportunities that social enterprises provide. This is where I want to refer back to my opening statement: social entrepreneurship is too often forgotten when we talk about economic development.
Nowadays, we stress the importance of start-ups or small and medium enterprises for economic development and job creation. However, I would like to call upon all of you to also focus on social enterprises. If we want to reach the EU 2020 goal of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, we need to stimulate business models that focus on maximising the wider societal benefits from business activity. To this goal, social entrepreneurship can, and will be, a very useful tool.