Good morning, ladies and gentlemen

Thank you for inviting me to speak at today’s conference on the social economy. I regret that I am not available in person.

The social economy is a great model for putting social and environmental purposes before profit.

In other words, people and the planet come first – while revenues are still generated to fulfil social purposes.

The social economy contains many of the answers that we need to make our economy ‘work for people’: the title of my own portfolio at the European Commission.

More than 13 million people work for social economy organisations across the EU – or around 6% of employees.

We are home to some 2.8 million social economy entities, ranging from social enterprises, cooperatives and mutual benefit societies to associations and foundations.

  • They create and retain quality jobs.
  • They contribute to social and labour market inclusion, including women, young people and vulnerable workers.
  • They drive sustainable economic development, especially in local communities.

But their economic and social potential is not being fully used.

This is why the European Commission presented the social economy action plan last December.

It aims to promote the development of the social economy and use its potential to boost and cement a sustainable recovery.

On jobs, for example, social enterprises are a major employer.

But their potential for creating employment is spread unevenly around EU countries.

In some Member States with long-standing traditions in this area, the social economy represents about 10% of paid employment and 10% of GDP.

These social entities can find it difficult to develop and scale up. Often, they are not widely recognised or understood, or the right support mechanisms are not in place.

We should raise their visibility, removing obstacles that hold them back and creating the right conditions for their growth.

Later, there will be a dedicated session with Commissioner Nicolas Schmit to discuss the action plan and its implementation.

The social economy plays an important role in the EU’s economic and industrial landscape too. It offers opportunities to boost Europe’s recovery, developing more inclusive ways to organise economic activities.

The Commission is now working with other interested parties on innovation and experimentation, new business models and the social economy.

We call this the “Proximity and Social Economy” transition pathway: the creation phase for a new industrial ecosystem. It could have significant potential for spill-overs into the wider economy, by:

  • building resilience;
  • attracting future investments;
  • driving forward the green and digital transitions.

Under the Pact for Skills, we are working to develop the skills needed for the social economy to thrive, as you will also discuss during the conference.

 

Ladies and gentlemen

In the last years, Social Europe has come a long way.

The commitments that we made at last year’s Porto Social Summit have put down a clear marker.

It is important that everyone, in Europe and elsewhere, is appreciated as being part of wider society.

This is where social economy entities and enterprises can play a major role. It is up to all of us to create the right conditions for a better and more inclusive economy.

One that works for people – meaning all people.

I wish you an inspiring conference and I hope that we can rely on your support for putting the social economy action plan into full effect. Thank you.