Paris, 26 May 2021
I am pleased to address today’s important Summit on the role of the social economy in building back better in Europe and beyond. Let me begin by congratulating the European Union for its forthcoming Action Plan for the Social Economy and the work underway supporting EU Member States to capitalise on the social economy’s potential at both national and local levels.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant global economic and social disruption. Our economies are beginning to recover, with global growth projected to reach 5.6% in 2021, so the time is ripe to reflect on the lessons of the crisis.
Key among these lessons is the importance of the social economy, which accounts for 6-8% of GDP in EU countries. Over the past 50 years, the social economy has expanded significantly at national and local levels. It is a driver of job creation and economic activity and has a social and green impact.
Crucially, its business models have also proven resilient during crises. For example, during the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, employment in social enterprises grew by 11.5% in Belgium and by 20% in Italian social co-operatives.
As the recovery from COVID-19 gains momentum, the values of solidarity, co operation and responsibility, which are at the heart of the social economy, should be the driving forces of change.
The social economy can support efficiency and resilience and act as a strong vehicle for social innovation. It can also inspire businesses to improve service delivery, promote citizen engagement, and contribute to the green transition.
Social economy organisations face many barriers, including the lack of institutional recognition, difficulties accessing tailored finance and markets, and inadequate legal frameworks. The lack of data also makes it difficult to tailor policies to support these organisations. This is particularly problematic as the benefits of the social economy go well beyond economic impacts.
We need to address these challenges and ensure that national, regional and local authorities support and stimulate the social economy by sharing good practices and solutions to common challenges. The European Social Economy Regions scheme, launched by the European Commission in 2018, serves as an excellent model.
For our part, OECD’s work on the social economy, grounded in the Local Employment and Economic Development (LEED) Programme of our Centre on Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities, spans more than 25 years.
Through the work of LEED, and in partnership with the European Commission, we have built the evidence to help countries develop national and local social economy ecosystems. One of the highlights of this collaboration is our Global Action to “Promote Social and Solidarity Economy Ecosystems” in all EU countries as well as Brazil, Canada, India, Korea, Mexico and the United States. This initiative, which has been supported by the European Commission, was launched in 2020 to mainstream the social economy.
We are carrying out several activities as part of this Global Action.
Last month, we launched a series of peer learning partnerships to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and experience across all target countries, including on social impact measurement, and the internationalisation of the social economy.
In September, we will host an international conference that will showcase new evidence on the role of the social economy in driving a strong, resilient, green and inclusive recovery.
In 2022, we will publish two international guides on legal frameworks and on social impact measurement to help overcome barriers and demonstrate better the critical role of the social economy for social inclusion and local development.
Last but not least, we are also developing best practice principles on the social economy in an international framework. The main aim of this work is to help countries, regions and cities capitalise on and scale up the social economy.
I would like to thank the European Commission for its longstanding and fruitful co operation with the OECD to support the design and delivery of policies to develop the social economy and social entrepreneurship in EU Member States, and globally through our Global Action.
Now, more than ever, the OECD stands ready to work with the European Commission to promote the social economy as a key agent of change for a stronger, fairer, greener, and more inclusive recovery.
Count on us!