Fabian Demicoli

Corporate responsibility & social enterprises: Two complementary aspects of a single European Model

Social Europe can be translated into business opportunities and the much-needed creation of jobs. During its May plenary session, the European Economic and Social Committee encouraged policy makers to foster social entrepreneurship and enhance corporate social responsibility in the EU. Three EESC opinions focus on how to give new impetus to the social sector and promote the social involvement of European companies.

 

European social business and social entrepreneurship funds The social economy sector already employs more than 6% of all EU workers. Approximately one out of every four businesses that was founded in Europe in 2009 is a social enterprise (e.g. a dairy cooperative where part of the workforce is composed of people with disabilities or a charity group employing persons at risk of poverty and social exclusion). In the current crisis situation, the EESC wants to strengthen growth, employment and competitiveness, while creating a more inclusive society that is in line with the Europe 2020 strategy.

Through two opinions on European Social Entrepreneurship Funds (rapporteur Ariane Rodert, Various Interests' Group) and Social Business Initiative (rapporteur Giuseppe Guerini, Various Interests' Group), the EESC invites the Commission and Member states to make public procurement and access to finance more accessible to social enterprises, develop national frameworks for the growth of social enterprises and appropriately implement the European Social Entrepreneurship Fund. According to the EESC, the future European Social Entrepreneurship Fund should also be accompanied by other financial instruments dedicated to social enterprises development. The European Social Entrepreneurship Fund cannot single-handedly improve the access to appropriate capital.

Corporate social responsibility The European Commission launched a new strategy for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for the period 2011-2014. The EESC adopted an opinion on this subject, drawn up by rapporteur Madi Sharma (Employers' Group) and co-rapporteur Stewart Etherington (Various Interests' Group). The EESC opinion supports the voluntary nature of CSR, but criticises the lack of plans to encourage and help enterprises to take responsibility for their impact on society.

The Committee proposes that companies that make CSR a central feature of their organisation should report on their social and environmental impact using transparent methods. The same should be done by public administrations and large civil society organisations. The EESC also calls for specific measures for SMEs and greater attention to the sector of social enterprise, which has been neglected in the CSR policy initiative.

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