As the leading research network in the field of social enterprise, the EMES European Research Network would like first and foremost to express its appreciation vis-à-vis the launching of the Social Business Initiative by the European Commission. The researchers of EMES appreciate the decision of the Commission to give a specific definition of social enterprise, to recognise the economic and social importance of these organisations in the European Social Model, and to frame this Initiative within other larger policy actions, namely the Europe 2020, the Innovation Union and the Single Market Act.
We also acknowledge the event organised to present the initiative to stakeholders in Brussels on November 18th, 2011, although we would have liked to see a stronger presence of European researchers, social economy representatives or umbrella organizations and practitioners.
We consider as a major step and we broadly agree with the overall approach and definition and the policy measures suggested in the Communication as well as with the link made with social innovation and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in a document released on the same date. In order to support this important initiative, we also believe that it is vital to start working immediately on improving it. To this end, we would like to suggest a few comments for the Communication, based on the accumulated experience of EMES. Some of the remarks listed here are developed in more detail further on:
- Greater clarity in the terminology (avoiding the confusion between social business, social enterprise and social entrepreneurship) would help consolidate the scope and goals of the Initiative, increasing its effectiveness.
- While all the proposed policies are helpful and issues related to financing are important, improving the legal and fiscal environment, and increasing the visibility of social enterprises are likely to be at least as beneficial to the sector.
- The lack of recognition in particular will necessitate a large comparative research effort to improve the knowledge of this type of enterprise, and of a strategic education and training action in order to change perceptions around controversial issues like state aid or public market.