By Agnieszka Bińskowska*, Poland

What is the perception of SSE in Poland?

In our business, Social and Solidarity Economy has never existed as such, there is no such term in our mission statement, in onboarding of employees, in marketing materials – we don’t talk about it, we don’t define it, I admit that when answering this question I didn’t know what exactly the term meant. The answer to the question of how SSE is perceived in Poland is, in my opinion, short – it is not perceived at all. For a person interested in the topic, there is a government website with the definition of Social Economy, which focuses on helping excluded people.

What is it like to be an SSE entity in Poland?

For us, Social Economy is associated with responsibility for the near and far environment – with ecology, with fair supply chains (Fair Trade), with relationships within the company, and these are the fields we focus on. Some of these things we communicate to our customers as distinguishing us from other producers, others not at all. We are aware that at the moment there is a small group of consumers for whom this is actually important. Even the context of Fair Trade tends to be understood by customers differently to its essence – when we talk about shortening the supply chain, customers don’t see that through FT the farmers will be paid better, but that this product bought more directly will be better for them, the consumers, more genuine, more original (+snobbish aspect: more exotic). The organic origin of products is also perceived in the context of “it’s healthier for me”, rather than “it’s better for the planet and for the plantation workers”. In summary – we are participants in the Social Economy more for ourselves, because that is how we want to operate, than for the people who are our recipients. However, we are patient, the time will come.

What challenges does SSE face in Poland?

In the context of our activity, I see two types of challenges. One is stable work on social awareness. We need education, opening up to the world, maybe an exchange of generations to understand the value of human-centred economics. This is a process and Poland is in it, but in a different place than Western Europe, for example. So I see it as a constant, stable challenge that we must keep in mind, something like the gradual fertilisation of the soil.

The second challenge, very topical at the moment, is the economic and political situation. This is something that changes consumer choices, but also moral choices. If you don’t have the money to pay the loan, prices are going up day by day, and you are additionally afraid of war, other things become a priority for you. You are more willing to go to a discount shop than to the local shop that your neighbour makes a living from. You are more likely to focus on securing your family than your friends, you are more likely to look after your neighbours than a stranger and, going further, you are more likely to take in a family from the Ukraine than to make sure that a Guatemalan family producing coffee has something to live on.

*About the author: Agnieszka and Borys Bińkowscy set up a family buissness “Szczypta Świata” in 2005. They sold FT products and crafts mainly from South America which they had explored for years. A youthful love of travel and the culture of South and Latin America turned into a way of life – keeping in touch with local producers, they brought in products that were made with respect for the environment and the local community.In 2012, they created Poland’s first Fairtrade certified brand, “Pizca del Mundo,” and offer chocolate and coffee.. Today Agnieszka focus on running and developing Szczypta Świata and Borys is active on educational field, recently he published a book “School from scratch”.