Article by REAS Network of Alternative and Solidarity Economy Networks 

In view of the call for elections to the European Union on June 9, REAS Red de Redes[1] would like to share their proposals of the Social and Solidarity Economy movement. The Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) is a vision and a practice that recognizes and is part of the Social Economy. It places the processes of sustaining life at the centre of socio-economic activity. It thus places people, communities and the environment above capital and its accumulation. This model promotes and develops productive and reproductible alternatives relevant to the economic cycle (finance, production, commercialisation and consumption). It is based on values related, among other things to cooperation, equity, environmental sustainability, reciprocity and self-management. This is all constructed from a transformative perspective that seeks to build more community-based, democratic, equitable, inclusive and sustainable economies. In short, we are talking about the feminist, ecological and solidarity-based economies, as stated in our Charter of Principles.

Given these facts, we consider that it is necessary to advance in the promotion of an eco-social transition that allows us to address important challenges of the moment such as the climate and care crisis, the growing scarcity of resources and the loss of biodiversity, the increase of inequality, the precariousness experienced by an ever growing sector of the population, the violation of basic human rights or the impossibility of access to decent housing.

This is why we are calling on EU politicians to create the systemic conditions that will enable citizens to generalise diverse and sustainable lifestyles by orienting the economic system towards the care of people and the planet.

Furthermore, in the current context, we call for an economy of peace through investment in conflict prevention and disinvestment in the militarization of Europe[2].

Current context: SSE at the center of international agendas
By adopting the resolution “Promoting the social and solidarity economy for sustainable development” on April 18, 2023, the United Nations (UN) reaffirmed the essential role of the Social and Solidarity Economy, thus consolidating the “Resolution on decent work and the Social and Solidarity Economy” adopted by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Furthermore, as part of the action plan for the social economy presented by the European Commission in 2021, the Council of the European Union adopted a recommendation in 2023 on the establishment of framework conditions for the social economy. This set of actions has provided a reference framework on which to develop an international ecosystem in favour of the Social and Solidarity Economy. In Spain, it is worth highlighting the recognition of the Social Economy with the creation of a Ministry of Labour and Social Economy (2020), the Strategic Plan for the Recovery and Economic Transition (PERTE) of Care and Social Economy (2022), a Secretary of State dedicated exclusively to this business model (2023), as  well as a new Comprehensive Law on Social Economy (2023-2024).

REAS Red de Redes welcomes the measures proposed by CEPES, an organization of which we are a member, and which are in turn aligned with those presented by Social Economy Europe (SEE). In particular, we highlight the proposals for the renewal of the Social Economy Intergroup of the European Parliament and the appointment of a European Commissioner responsible for Social Economy.

Within this framework, we support the measures proposed by RIPESS, the European network of which we are a partner, in its contribution to the 2023 Recommendation of the Council of the European Union on the development of framework conditions for the social economy for the Social Economy, with the aim of strengthening the role of the Solidarity Economy in European public policies:

  • Member States should develop ambitious strategic and regulatory frameworks that take the diversity of Social and Solidarity Economy initiatives into account.
  • Member States should develop public policies for SSE actors based on sustainable, operational and partnership funding, reaching beyond a profit and market access-based approach.

In this sense, and recognizing ourselves as part of the Social and Solidarity Economy, we highlight the potential of the Solidarity Economy in terms of eco-social transition and oriented to social transformation that we believe should be incorporated in all European policies and plans.

Our proposals
The measures developed below, structured around 8 thematic lines of action, show us the way towards this change that we demand through policies of inclusion and social cohesion, which promote the sustainability of life and are at the service of people and the common good.

  1. Responsible Public Procurement
  • Promote the inclusion of social and environmental criteria in public procurement procedures to promote the logic of cooperation and virtuous collaboration to foster positive impacts on territories and groups of small scale food local organic and agroecological food,producers to the detriment of the logic of profitability and price auctions.
  • Ensure the effective implementation of Due Diligence measures, key to addressing impacts on human rights and the environment.
  1. For an energy transition and a circular economy
  • Ensure a just energy transition that benefits all citizens from a pro-commons approach to energy for all.
  • Boost the local economy through the promotion of energy communities that will allow all citizens to participate in decisions about the production, control of the prices they pay, and protect them from energy crises.
  • Promote the circular economy, recognizing the role of SSE companies in driving textile circularity, establishing a strong and inclusive governance framework within Extended Producer Responsibility schemes and cost coverage for social re-use actors.
  1. For a fair and green trade policy
  • Develop a fair model of trade agreements between the EU and third countries in a way that favors sustainable development for both parties.
  • Improve the impact assessment of trade agreements taking into account social, economic and environmental sustainability, especially for small agricultural and producer organizations, SMEs and those based on SSE business models.
  • Support agroecological practices in EU and EU-linked transnational food systems.
  • Improve the directive on unfair trade practices in the agriculture and food sector by clarifying its scope and prohibiting purchasing below the cost of sustainable production.
  • Facilitate access to climate finance for small farming organisations and increase funding for these organisations to develop climate change adaptation measures.
  1. Towards social and collective entrepreneurship
  • Support processes of entrepreneurial recovery and transformation towards SSE structures.
  • Reinforce processes of second and further articulation by SSE initiatives, strengthening existing stable formulas of entrepreneurial cooperation and promoting the creation of new ones. Specifically, “multi-participatory” forms such as the Community Cooperatives of Italy or the Cooperative Societies of Collective Interest of France, which should be extended to the European level and the non-profit cooperatives of social initiatives, which are the legal figure supporting energy communities and housing cooperatives in the Spanish State.
  • Develop lines for the creation and consolidation of SSE enterprises, especially in rural areas: network resources, training and advice, marketing strategies.
  1. Education for eco-social change.
  • Encourage the development of specific programs that promote the SSE culture.
  • Provide lines of support and funding for the development of cooperative learning methodologies and Social and Solidarity Economy in schools at all levels at the European level, as well as exchange programmes for students on mutualisation, associative activities, cooperation and SSE.
  • Develop new soft skills and capacity building training based on community building, group facilitation, self-managed and collective organisation of social enterprises and student cooperatives at the European level.
  1. For a feminist economy and a social organisation of care that ensures the right of all people based on co-responsibility
  • Ensure the correct implementation of the European Care Strategy based on three fundamental axes: promote the role of public institutions and the community including the Social and Solidarity Economy (collectivization), enhance the value and professionalise care work and move towards a public-community care system.
  • Recognition of the SSE as a priority agent for the management of publicly responsible services through the articulation of mechanisms for public concertation with effective social clauses and market reserves.
  • Strengthening, supporting and encouraging the growth of local, national and international networks of care and mutual support through the reorganization of cities and the promotion of public spaces.
  1. Food and agroecological sovereignty
  • Promote participatory citizen forms of local food and community policies to support agriculture, farmers’ markets and cooperative forms of short and ecological supply chains.
  • Support all those practices of collective and community production, such as urban gardens or food forests.
  • Encourage forms of food distribution and accessibility to pesticide-free and OGM-free quality fresh, nutritious affordable food.
  • Establish clear and transparent labelling of products and mandatory indication of the use of chemicals and pesticides, GMOs or other alterations including New Genomic Breeding Techniques (NGBT) (as well as their origin).
  1. Develop ethical finance for peace and the promotion of the Social and Solidarity Economy
  • Promote funding for peace and do not allocate it to the so-called “Armed Banking, forcing all European banks to make their transactions with the arms industry public, allowing citizens and institutions to control the use of their savings.
  • Implement concrete measures to limit the financial transactions linked to the arms trade that are hidden behind the anonymity of tax havens.
  • Apply binding criteria for “net zero through a strict European regulatory framework that defines clear and verifiable rules for those who aspire to net zero emissions, counteracting the phenomenon of greenwashing.
  • Develop financial instruments oriented to the socio-entrepreneurial fabric of the SSE between the different levels of administration and ethical finance entities: guarantees, rotating funds, citizen’s microfinance projects (match funding), microcredits.
  • Promote specific lines of subsidies to cover the interest on loans granted to SSE entities to cover liquidity needs arising from the current context of increased production and financing costs.

REAS Network of Alternative and Solidarity Economy Networks May 2024

[1] REAS Red de Redes is a confederal network made up of 15 territorial networks and 5 sector-based networks, bringing together over 1,000 entities and companies, involving more than 50,000 people and managing over 1.1 billion euros a year. In its almost 30 years of existence, it has succeeded in articulating key sectors such as: ethical finance, renewable energies, fair trade, waste recovery and reuse, professional inclusion, organic food production and consumption, ethical insurance, transformative communication, transferable cooperative housing, cooperative supermarkets and personal support.

[2] .