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EU Green Week Partner Event – Social Economy Solutions Towards Zero Pollution
Welcome to the EU Green Week partner event “Social Economy Solutions Towards Zero Pollution”, to be held on Thursday 3rd June at 15.00 - 17.00 CET, as a zoom webinar.
Register for this important event here.
You can find the draft agenda here.
We aim to raise awareness of an important alternative business model (the social economy), which helps us to fight for the green transition towards a better environment by reduce pollution while keeping profits local, ensuring equality and a fair society, to a wider audience.
Examples include working towards the green transition through: Reducing plastic pollution, The farm to fork strategy and change in the food environments through consumer co-operatives, cooperatives providing several environmental services including landscaping, waste management and treatment and social farming, associations of solidarity entities dedicated to the reduction, reuse and recycling of waste, with the objective of social transformation and promotion of the socio-labour insertion of people at risk of social exclusion, cooperative energy communities (REScoops) and more.
The social economy is a major socio-economic player of our Single Market. In the EU alone, there are 2.8 million social economy enterprises and organisations, ranging from SMEs to large groups, that operate in all sectors, employing 13.6 million citizens and accounting for 8% of the Union’s GDP. The social economy is made of a diversity of organisations as cooperatives, mutuals, associations, foundations and social enterprises, among other legal forms, united by values and features as the primacy of people and the social objective over capital, democratic governance, solidarity and the reinvestment of most profits to pursue sustainable development objectives.
Event reportPlease read the full interactive and graphical report here- https://www.socialeconomy.eu.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Report-03.06.pdf The full video can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9r2GWRXUy0 97 attendees, 20 different nationalities were present in the audience, panellists from 8 different nationalities, run time 2 hours, 56% Female vs 44% Male audience. Have you ever wondered if there is another way of doing business? A way that regular people can benefit more from the money they spend in their communities? What if you heard that there is a way that we can actually help to save the planet, while ensuring that the local communities, the workers and the most vulnerable in society are actively protected!? This event will introduce you to this alternative model. The social economy! This event, co-organised by Social Economy Europe and RREUSE aimed to raise awareness of the social economy, which helps us to fight for the green transition towards a better environment by reducing pollution while keeping profits local, ensuring equality and a fair society, to a wider audience. Examples include working towards the green transition through: Reducing plastic pollution, The farm to fork strategy and change in the food environments through consumer co-operatives, cooperatives providing several environmental services including landscaping, waste management and treatment and social farming, associations of solidarity entities dedicated to the reduction, reuse and recycling of waste, with the objective of social transformation and promotion of the socio-labour insertion of people at risk of social exclusion, cooperative energy communities (REScoops) and more. For more information about the potential and real influence of the social economy, listen to our Podcast (episode 2 features two of the organisations in this event!) And you can watch the amazing video called "We the Power" which has recently gone viral. Help spread this message further! The event had extremely high level speakers including: Agamemnon Otero MBE, Founding Director of Energy Garden, Repowering London and Brixton Energy Dirk Vansintjan, President of REScoop.eu David Levine, Co-founder and President of ASBC Katie Treadwell, Energy Policy Officer at WWF EPO Lorita Constantinescu, Development Director at Ateliere Fara Frontiere José Manuel Portas, Coordinator of the Technical Secretariat at AERESS Francisco Serrano, Vice President of the Comunitat Minera Olesana SCCL "The Cooperative of the Water" The event was opened by Nick Clark as he explained that the purpose of the event was to to spread message of the social economy to an audience that might not be fully aware of what the social economy is, or the potential it has to help our society be truly sustainable. He explained that the speakers represent organisations that form a part of the social economy, which are businesses that put people before profit, reinvest most or all of their profits for the common good, including in training, upskilling and reskilling workers, in employment of people far from the labour market, or for social services of general interest. They also have democratic governance, where one person or member has one vote in the decision making of the organisation. He pondered “imagine how much fairer society would be if more businesses followed these rules?!” He then introduced the theme of the event, explaining the areas of the green transition that these social economy organisations are actively working towards, whilst keeping profits local and ensuring a fair and equal society. He concluded by explaining that the message we want to send to the Conference on the Future of Europe is one of replicability. These amazing business practices should be taken up in different areas and member states. The model should be promoted and therefore the ecosystem in EU policies should be conducive to the social economy. Concrete proposals for EU Policy can be found in the SEE´s Social Economy Action Plan Proposals. Julija Kekstaite from RREUSE then introduced the Keynote Speaker, Mr Agamemnon Otero MBE with a question: Mr Otero was asked to explain about about Energy Garden, its joint environmental and social impact. Additionally, if he could you also tell us his opinion on the replicability of this model in other cities/regions. Mr Otero´s presentation can be found here. A video of his speech can be found here. Mr Otero began by explaining that the community movement is in transition and that traditional business structure of maximising profit in the shortest time is negatively affecting our health and wellbeing. He explained that has worked on multiple community projects from social housing, repowering, policy and focussing on a new scale-able model which is Energy Garden. This is a community owned renewable energy (COR Project), which focusses on two key parts, community energy and people power! Community owned renewable energy is more than just solar panels on the roof; that is just the beginning. It really involves people coming together in a democratic way to decide how their future will be spent (financial, environmental and the way the social dynamics work in the neighbourhood). All projects are a collaborative process, and often, projects hinge on key women in the community, which Mr Otero referred to as the Matriarch. These important figures help facilitate dynamic community relationships Mr Otero related his own ability to overcome severe life challenges with the support of his own grandmother. These important people help to retrieve the inner strength and help us to realise that the knowledge and potential is in us, just as it is in these communities all along. He continued to provide important facts on huge sums of money that are going into environmental and social governance projects, but these only use a little bit of environment. The Energy Garden projects are different. The aim is to re-envision the city, how these grand transport corridors of metal and concrete (rail and metro lines), can be transformed into a space that can empower communities to change London! He invoked the phrase “From Seed to Solar”, directly addressing carbon emissions, by allowing people to invest in renewable energies in large infrastructure, developing over 30 gardens with 300 volunteers across 14 boroughs across London. Additionally, there are paid, accredited training programmes. From this, conversations can be opened with the business sector on ESG (Environmental, Social ad Governance indicators), inviting them to become 1 vote, one shareholding member of this 10+ Megawatt cooperative, with visions of becoming 100 Megawatt in the future. These interconnecting areas of the city, based around transport infrastructure facilitate the conversation around food, health, air quality, biodiversity and energy. The common linkage between all of this is Education! Public consultation is the only way to explore where we are, and what we want to do. The paid accredited training programmes bring people into this conversation training in finance, IT, Legal, Marketing, in setting up their own energy system, to be part of a power structure, where they are not just electrically powered, but empowered to make social change. This comes from voting for what they want and helping to facilitate that. Ultimately the foundational piece results in solar panels being installed on the buildings, but that are embedded into the community. “The so-called disenfranchised youths, what they really want is a way IN-to their community, not out of it” This involves the whole community working through a structured programme, which begins from resource planning, governance, project planning, engagement, co-production, fuel poverty initiatives to producing a renewable energy cooperative. 15 years of citizens assemblies have made this possible, fulfilling it by concrete actions. It involves people paying for the social and environmental outcomes, which are measurable, creating a virtuous circle. A strong case can be made to the financial community that there are tangible returns on investments. This case must be made along side the ESG narrative including the “social return”, meaning that this change toward community energy can be facilitated! Mr Otero finished by explaining that this is a transition! It must have an iterative approach by asking us to get involved today. Monitoring and evaluation is vital to ensure that this model is repeatable and scale-able! The next speaker was Dirk Vansintjan, who started our Panel discussion. He was asked to introduce the REScoop model, and tell us of its potential to become a mainstream model of energy production. Additionally, he was asked if REScoops play a role in the creation of jobs to ensure a Just Transition? Mr Vansintjan began by explaining how his cooperative energy community got started in Belgium from an old water mill that had been abandoned. The project got started by a small group of neighbours sitting around a kitchen table. He explained that there are people like Agamemnon Otero (above) and himself that all have inspiring stories all over Europe. This model works! He explained that this is a crucial moment in history, to move from large centralised powerstations (nuclear, gas etc..) towards a decentralised power production model, with solar panels on our own rooves as the ultimate form of this. We are transitioning from centralised energy production to decentralised. Mr Vansintjan explained that this is the moment for us citizens to take ownership of the energy production of the future. This is a unique chance, we must not let go! Profits from renewables should stay local, in rural area, so young people can stay there, not move to the city, improve their internet connections. There is no use in the large companies that used to pollute becoming the owners of the wind turbines and the solar panels. This struggle is already happening. Mr Vansintjan told us that in Belgium the monopolist electric company “Electrabel” already make advertisements saying that they will put solar panels on your roof, that they will maintain it and clean it every year. They will pay for the service and not for the KWH anymore. However, Mr Vansintjan warned us that these companies do not have the people´s, nor the community´s best interest at heart, they are simply looking to make profit. It is workers that will suffer and it will only drain money from the localities. Mr Vansintjan explained that it is proven by scientific reports that for solar panels and wind turbines that are owned by the local community, the return in profit to the local area is up to eight times higher than when large utility companies own them. Therefore this energy transition is a unique chance to get energy democracy. Mr Vansintjan then explained about his own energy cooperative (Ecopower), which began in 1985 with a few friends around a kitchen table and has grown to 60000 members representing 1.6% of the Belgian households with green energy! An important message is that this could be a much larger percentage; however, in Belgium (as in other Member States), politicians, political parties and municipalities are intertwined with the monopolists of the past. This takes time to unravel. The good news is that the European commission has a set new EU directives which are being transposed in all EU Member States, and should allow EU citizens to replicate this model. This must be facilitated by the EU. The next speaker was David Levine. Mr Levine´s presentation can be found here. His video can be found here. The American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) and SEE have signed a Memorandum of Understanding and a quote from Mr Levine was read out from this important common statement: “we need to find real solutions and take determined action throughout all facets of our economy from reimagining green infrastructure, regenerative agriculture, safer chemicals, plastic, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and green buildings, to a more just transition from fossil fuels so that no energy community is left behind in the global march towards an inclusively cleaner, healthier and more equitable planet” - David Levine, December 2020 Mr Levine was asked if he had concrete examples of sustainable enterprises from the ASBC Membership which the audience can learn from here in Europe as examples of good practice? David´s speech followed the theme of co-learning from each other. The ASBC represent business organisations, many of which are of the traditional business form, yet the strong partnership that Social Economy Europe and the ASBC hold is precisely the way to inject the values of the social economy into businesses that are more conscious about needing to operate in a more sustainable fashion. The ASBC was set up to unite the voices of organisations that were upholding the values that we have spoken about in today´s event to form a power to change the rules, to engage in public policy, where they can make the business and economic case for sustainability. Until that point (around 2008), the argument against sustainability had been that it was bad for business. The business leaders, which form the ASBC were to stand up and articulate the solutions, innovations and opportunities, but to use branding to advocate for the transition to the just and sustainable economy. The ASBC now represents over 250,000 businesses and enterprises in the USA. He stressed the important of the partnership with Social Economy Europe, which represents the voice of the social economy in Europe. The plan is to expand away from the USA to further afield. The message from politicians in the USA is that it is important for business leaders to show up and to give real solutions to the problems, demonstrating how to positively step forwards. The ASBC also try to understand the ways that we can help in the transition of the economy and societies. He explained that the ASBC works on race and equality, circular economy, safer chemicals, climate change and renewable energy, infrastructure, regenerative agriculture, high road workplace and local economies, transforming corporate governance and democratic preservation. He then explained that the ASBC has helped to write and create the crowd funding act, benefit corporations, greater transparency, and in driving worker ownership and the social economy. They helped to pass the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act, pass the Sustainable Chemistry Bill, and a Break Free from Plastic Bill by bringing the business voice to the table that had until this point been missing. They help to provide the business vision of where growth and jobs are going to come from. They are currently trying to put ESG (environmental, social and governance criteria) at the heart of what it means to be sustainable. He then focussed on some impressive climate and energy achievements like helping to pass the ban on fracking in New York state, helping to ban the Keystone Pipeline. Mr Levine then explained how the ASBC has been working, just like the previous speakers on ensuring that community and worker ownership aspect of renewable energies. How do we create a transitions in the economy, so we are not left with just five companies left in the world that are benevolent. “The transition to a more sustainable economy is inclusive of a shift in the way we do the economy itself and the ways businesses operate.” - David Levine He continues to highlight the interconnected nature of their work, linking rural communities, transport, internet, water through infrastructure. He gave a fantastic example of the "Escalante H2 project" in New Mexico, which took a decommissioned coal plant into a Hydrogen plant. This is a fantastic opportunity to create jobs in pure transition areas and is a model that can be replicated elsewhere, even here in Europe. Mr Levine concluded by listing several organisations, with very similar values to all those of the social economy, with people from diverse communities reclaiming land, putting it into land trusts, greening the space in the urban area, creating enterprises, including culture, fibre, fabric, arts and culture. He drew a parallel with the words of our Keynote Speaker, Agamemnon Otero on the holistic nature of this community transition. He finished with a message of cooperation, where all different types of businesses should be working together, cross-pollinating values to create community and the power we need to change the rules and the systems to change policies. The next speaker was Katy Treadwell. A video of Ms Treadwell´s speech can be found here. Recently the WWF contributed to the Action Plan for the Social Economy, a very important policy development to help the social economy gain fairer conditions, better access to funding and markets in the EU. Ms Treadwell was asked if she could tell us why the WWF were compelled to consider the social economy. Additionally, Social Economy Europe recently signed a common vision for the just transformation, as did the WWF, which included the social economy. Ms Treadwell was asked if she can tell us about her work in this area and how she thinks the social economy can have added value in this context? Ms Treadwell first set the message that social and environmental goals are interdependent. Climate change affects food systems, biodiversity and ecosystem services, which each in turn directly affect the ecosystem services that society relies on. These should be tackled together. Recognising that these are linked is now being broadly looked at by the WWF along with the wellbeing economy, which is when public interest determine economics and not the other way around, for example, health, and nature and other public services or goods as the indicators that we should monitor, rather than the narrow definitions of economic growth like GDP. Ms Treadwell explained that we know what we need to do, both in terms of the environmental and social objectives, but the WWF want us to go even further, not reaching for Carbon neutrality by 2050, but by 2040. She added that we constantly explain the costs associated with this accelerated transition, but we should instead consider the extraordinary benefits. One example is that jobs will be created, but we must consider who will pay the costs, how will the benefits be shared, and will the new jobs be of a good quality? Mr Treadwell explained that the social economy does have a large potential for the Just Transition because it puts social goals before profit, but she added that it should also be putting environmental goals before profit. She explained that in regard to the Just Transition, the WWF work closely on this in coal regions through their national offices on this topic. She explained that the social economy could have a really big impact in filling the “gaping hole” left when the coal industry inevitably leaves these regions. This causes huge social challenges to arise, such as mass unemployment and the drying up of community services. She gave the example of Silesia in Poland where 52,000 jobs are at risk if coal leaves the region. Additionally, there can be long lasting environmental issues such as land subsidence, heavy metal contamination of soils. Ms Treadwell marvelled at the potential of the social economy to tackle air pollution; however, this will only occur if the social economy always recognises the interlinkage between social and environmental goals. She issued a challenge, which the social economy world should take seriously. This is that more research is needed into the current and potential impact of the social economy in these transition regions to make tangible impacts. She also mentioned that the WWF would like the definition of the social economy to include science based “do no significant harm” criteria. She continued to explain how she was inspired by the REScoop.eu story and the energy community stories and the huge potential of this in transition regions. She continued that the Joint Research Centre (JRC) has found that 60% of renewables needed to meet carbon neutrality could actually be reached in coal regions in Europe! There is already existing community infrastructure in these regions. We need more research of how the social economy can take advantage of these opportunities and to see how much further this can actually go. Regarding the Just Transformation, this regards to a societal shift, which is needed to reach all of our goals. The Just Transition was defined by the trade unions, but each just transition doesn’t take place in isolation, it is a globally fair transition that we need. "CAN Europe" are leading the broader vision of the just transformation vision and this has been signed by SEE and the WWF. It has 10 principles, complementing the guidelines for a Just Transition. It is not focussed on economic growth, instead on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) when developing policy. She concluded that, since social economy organisations put public interests first, they can be important in these just transformations provided they align with environmental goals. The next speaker was Lorita Constantinescu. You can find Ms Constantinescu´s presentation here. You can find her video here. She was asked to tell the audience about Atelier Fara Frontera and about how the Bio-co projects aim to link to farm to fork strategies. Additionally, to describe What environmental and community benefits the project brings and if it can be replicated elsewhere by others? Ms Constantinescu explained about the association “Ateliere Fara Frontiere”, which in English means workshops without borders. This is a non profit organisation dedicated to integrating vulnerable, marginalised and excluded people. She described that it is often the case that people who have one difficulty will often have many others as a result, actually averaging in seven or eight difficulties that vulnerable people can encounter. They have developed a methodology to work with vulnerable people and help them to join the conventional workforce. This works in three phases, 1) Stabilising 2) development 3) professional projects. To give vulnerable people a working environment, and the skills they need, “Ateliere Fara Frontiere” created three workshops. One, is to collect, test and prepare to reuse electronic waste, the second is to upcycle advertising materials into ethical goods and the third is Bio&co. Bio&Co is a social and pedagogical farm, which produces organic vegetable, reducing waste and pollution and creates 10 working places for vulnerable people in a rural area. Vulnerable people in rural areas are typically left behind, so these workshops are very important. Impressively, Ms Constantinescu explained how their model was inspired from France, the Cocagne Network, which consists of over 100 work integration social farms. This is a clear demonstration of the replicability of this business model. This farm started in 2015, originally rented, but it is now owned by the association, the project hired vulnerable people from the local community. Workers include women with several children, often from the Roma community. It is often very difficult for these people to find a job, they cannot travel due to their childcare commitments. In this workshop, the people who are trained are hired and allowed to stay as long as they need to; however, they are assisted and supported in finding a job. There are courses in financial education, and people are linked to social assistants, and they are educated in their own rights and how to access different services. The farm grows 80 varieties of vegetables, all seasonal as well as producing honey. Customers receive weekly boxes of vegetables. Customers are educated to consume responsibly and carefully. Although, it is not easy to educate customers! To ease learning, customers receive different vegetables each week, but are provided with an easy to follow recipe for these vegetables as well as with news from the farm. The environment is linked to all activities on the farm. For example, a solarium, not green house and seasonal vegetables delivered in reused baskets. They are collected in points of delivery rather than home delivery. Additionally, waste is composted, which due to improving laws will hopefully be fully in action soon. The project communicates with the local community through an annual harvest day, along with authorities with advocacy work. Importantly, the farm has a strong educational aspect. Children come from the capital city to learn about sustainable farming and agriculture. The replication of this model faces significant barriers; For example access to state and EU funds is essential to upscale this kind of project. Currently, associations are not allowed to join a cooperative in Romania and this is hindering progress. There is also a lack of access to credit. Currently, the sale of vegetables is not yet enough to self sustain the farm, it still relies on the help of members; however, if upscaled this would likely change. A sign of success is that this amazing project was chosen as a best practice in the latest EU Rural Review magazine. The Association also advocates strongly for EU policies such as the EU Green Deal (Farm to Fork), the EU Pillar of Social Rights and the Digital Agenda for Europe. This is a fantastic model which represents multiple facets of the work needed to better our society, improving health, the environment and society all in the same project. Lets hope we can replicate this model further. The next speaker was Jose Manuel Portas. The presentation can be found here. A video of his speech can be found here. Mr Portas was asked to introduce the AERESS network and tell the audience about any of his favourite examples of social enterprises active in the circular economy? Additionally, if he could explain to new C02 calculator that AERESS have developed. Mr Portas introduced AERESS, which is the Spanish Association of Recovery and Social Entities, it represents 28 organisations in 14 regions in Spain. The main goal is a social transformation, through social entities, which try to make new labour opportunities for people at risk of exclusion. They do this through waste management, along with preparation of products for reuse. This is the method that produces the highest social and environmental benefits. Moreover, there are other services including stores and shops, which sell restored items for reuse, along with educating customers about more responsible consumption and local development projects. Many entities, also manage green points for collecting used items. The system works through different pillars, one being textiles. Used textiles are collected at different points, in different ways, via containers, distribution stores and private donations. Employees sort the reusable parts or garments, which are classified, conditioned and sold in the stores. Non reusable textiles are sent to authorised plants for recycling. Mr Portas then explained about WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment). In this case they have agreements between social entities and private companies, in this case, the BSH group (one of the largest electrical goods manufacturers in Europe). BSH supplies used appliances to AERESS network to be repaired, they are then resold by BHS as second hand products. Here, BSH benefit by establishing themselves as a pioneer of the sector, in compliance with Spanish regulation, whilst generating a significant environmental and social impact. It generates support from the leaders of this sector leading the way to collaboration with other companies. Many different types of waste are collected, furniture, organic waste and packaging. 75,000 tonnes of waste were collected last year, of which more than 10,000 tonnes could be reused! Reusing this, saves emissions equivalent to 66,858 tonnes of CO2! This is the same as reducing 51,000 cars from the road for a day. Mr Portas explained that AERESS is very close to the citizens, with the aim of bringing the realities of environmental and social progress to the people. For this, they have developed diverse tools; for example, the CO2 emissions calculator! The Spanish Ministry of Environment has been vital in helping to fund this. Other Member states should be encouraged to do the same. On the website ttp://www.reutilizayevitaco2.aeress.org/en/, in ES and in EN, you enter the number of items you will reuse, and the calculator will tell you how much CO2 you are saving, along with figures in tangible terms such as equivalent trees or cars. The tool has now been updated to include water savings (for now only available in ES). The output comes in the form of a receipt, giving users a clear image of their direct impact. AERESS have been able to present this tool at national and EU level. The tools can also help to calculate the number of hours of work generated. The final panellist was Francisco Serrano. The presentation can be found here. A video of this speech can be found here. he was asked to introduce the Cooperative of the Water and tell us about the environmental and social benefits that his organisation delivers by being a cooperative? Mr Serrano began by explaining about Comunitat Minera Olesana “The Cooperative of the Water”. This is the only cooperative for drinking management in Spain. It is 150 years old and manages water using social economy principles. It manages drinking water from over 24,000 people, from collection to distribution. For the Cooperative, the people are not customers, but instead owners. Water is an essential asset and the people actually do own the cooperative! Water is an essential resource, not a merchandise. A main aim of this Cooperative is to guarantee the access of drinking water to the next generations. All economic profits from this amazing cooperative are re-invested. This allows the price of water to be 50% lower than the average of the region (Catalunya). The re-investments also go towards social improvements, including economic funds of social guarantee, helping other associations, the creation of new Cooperatives and to help people at risk of exclusion! Technical improvements as a direct benefit of re-investment of profits allows for environmental gain from reduced water leaks, optimisations of resources, new technology at water treatment sites and the generation of their own electrical energy, through PV-systems saving 30%! They have some impressive numbers where water leaks are only 8% compared to 25% average for the rest of Spain! They also reduce chemicals used in water treatment and filter treatment. Additionally, they help to reduce public water consumption! This impressive Cooperative model works towards the SDGs focussing on the following: For example, cheaper, clean, safe drinking water; better paid workers than the average, new technologies and infrastructure via re-investment of profits, educating the population to consume less water and reducing leaks helps the city become more sustainable, reduced CO2 emission and very strong partnerships with local governmental institutions. Comunitat Minera Olesana, along with Clade and Instal·lacions RAX join to make aigua.coop, with the aim of replicating this amazing model to apply social economy principles in drinking water management in other cities. Next we heard the perspective of the European Commission in the section called: Europe` s moment: Building alliances for climate neutrality and an economy that works for people and planet. We were joined by Karel Vanderpoorten, who was asked to give his opinion on the upscaling of the initiatives spoken about during the event, and how the social economy can be mainstreamed in environmental policy to ensure a just transition? A video of the speech can be found here. Mr Vanderpoorten expressed that he was surprised by the variety and richness of the organisation expressed in the event. He expressed that the positive evolutions of the energy communities is a very positive message. He explained that the green transition is usually in the DNA f the social economy. He said that the sustainability aspect and the SDGs are at the heart of the values of the social economy. Mr Vanderpoorten explained that traditional business models simply work towards profits, based on incoming and outgoing expenses; however, the social economy has a lot more at stake. Not only the re-investment, but also the governance structure we see in cooperatives and associations, where one person one vote, or one member, one vote, makes participation incredibly important. The triple, bottom line (profit, people, planet) includes the governance aspect, social impact as well as the green and environmental impact. At the event, we saw excellent examples in granular detail of impacts on air, soil, and water for example. Mr Vanderpoorten commented on the interconnectedness between the environmental impacts of these businesses, for example how soil management will also impact water management. Mr Vanderpoorten continued by remarking on the local aspect of the social economy “ecosystem”. He explained that more and more, with the social economy there is more local interaction between government and the civil society, helping the civic responsibility. He referred again to the "energy communities", where there is a deliverable, customer and owner, all of which are local and delivering a green energy provision. In that respect, he explained that the Commission, along with Social Economy Europe (through the GECES expert group on the social economy to the Commission) are working on the phenomenon of the cluster (clusters on social and ecological innovation). This is a local grouping of local enterprises from different sectors, joined together for an economic vision. He gave the examples of wastewater management and energy production, which also create social impacts with employment of people at risk of exclusion, but also by providing skills trajectories (training). They do this by pooling resources together to train people commonly. Mr Vanderpoorten explained that the commission want to include these “Social Economy Clusters” more into the industrial cluster policy, there is so much activity, this will open up further opportunities. He ended with a small story from the EUSES on a new cluster called Circularium. This has existed for one year, creating a hub for circular businesses, including food management, repair, and second hand, combined with a social mission. This is new, supported by larger corporate companies. This helps provide a link to traditional businesses buying a link to this more social philosophy. From an industrial perspective, he suggested that this is a promising way forwards, with the social economy as a valuable and equal partner that can be a business partner. He ended by explaining the Social Economy Action Plan, and he explained that he has learned some real clear “nitty gritty” details that may inspire them while editing the Action Plan. The next speaker was Antigone Dalamaga. A video of her speech can be found here. Ms Dalamaga was asked to briefly explain the main objective of RREUSE and her views on the potential of the circular economy in ensuring responsible production and consumption. Ms Dalamaga began by explaining that RREUSE is a network of national and regional networks, or of individual social economy actors active in the field of prevention, reuse and recycling. Its members employ around 90,000 people, many of which are typically far from the labour market. In total, over 1 million tonnes of products are diverted away from landfill and incineration, through use and recycling activities. This has an annual combined turnover of over 1 Billion euros. Reuse activities clearly benefit the environment, the local economy and have a significant social impact in local communities. Firstly, by providing low cost, high quality goods to those who might not be able to afford it otherwise, and by creating local jobs. This is a Win-win-win on the triple bottom line. She continued by saying that a recently published paper from the RREUSE network looked at the impact its members had on job creation. It focussed on inclusive, green jobs in the reuse sector. On average a social enterprise creates 70 jobs per 1000 tonnes collected for reuse. There is a huge diversity in the types of reuse activities, and taking this into account, social enterprises create between 20 to 140 jobs per 1000 tonnes of collected material. She moved on to focus on three waste streams, which are relevant at EU Policy level. Textiles create between 20–35 jobs per 1000 tonnes; furniture creates between 35-70 jobs per 1000 tonnes and WEEE (electronics) produce between 60- 140 jobs per 1000 tonnes. She explained that for the true transition to happen, members of RREUSE believe that a real shift in ensuring reusability of products is more important than recyclability. Recycling is important in the circular economy, but is not enough and we should redesign to ensure better reusability of products. Further shifts need to be made to ensure the true potential of reuse in the circular economy. At the legislative level this should be setting separate targets for reuse and preparation for reuse in different waste streams. We need to look at eco-modulation or EPR fees (Modulated fees are based on weight and net recycling costs, and typically incentivise light weighting and efficient recycling. Eco-modulated fees are based on more nuanced factors that attempt to provide an incentive for producers to reduce the environmental impacts of their packaging. EPR fees means extended producer responsibility. This is a strategy to add all of the environmental costs associated with a product throughout the product life cycle to the market price of that product.). Other tools include reduced VAT for reusable products or fiscal incentives to repair. We also need to make sure that EU investments and financing focusses on the upper level of the waste hierarchy. We need to ensure that products are made to last longer, that they are more durable, reusable and repairable. Or electronic equipment, there should be an availability of spare parts that are affordable. We should teach consumers that new isn´t necessarily better! Public awareness needs to be raised on the impact of some choices, such as the impacts of fast fashion, or the availability of donating reusable goods. Ms Dalamaga then thanked all the speakers and participants, the commission for allowing us to host this event in the framework of EU Green week and thanked Nick Clark and Julija Kekstaite for coordinating this fantastic event. The final speaker of the event was Ms Partizia Bussi. A video of the speech can be found here. Mr Bussi was asked to briefly summarise what she had heard during the event and about how Social Economy Europe plays an important role in the area of the green transition whilst having a positive impact on social integration or on the local communities. She was also asked to elaborate on how her organisation ENSIE (the European Network of Social Integration Enterprises) is helping to do this. Ms Bussi began by explaining that Social Economy Europe is the voice of 2.8 million social economy enterprises and organisations in Europe. We represent over 13.6 million workers and around 8% of EU GDP! We are the social economy reference point at European level. We are a strategic partner to European institutions and have led on EU policy on the social economy representing all forms of the social economy: Cooperatives, Mutuals, Associations, foundations and social enterprises. SEE also helps to mainstream the social economy in EU Parliament as the secretariat of the European Parliaments Social Economy Intergroup. As mentioned earlier, the Action Plan for the Social Economy is an important EU policy tool to help mainstream the social economy in the EU and make the policy and legal ecosystem fairer for these sustainable, social economy enterprises and organisations. This is a large part of our work at Social Economy Europe. Social Economy Europe has 16 (now 18) members, each of which have a large network of members of their own. Among our national and international members SEE have incredible organisations, similar to the ones you have heard from today! The social economy has massive added value through renewable energy cooperatives, sustainable mobility solutions, environmental education, healthcare and insurance at the service of the people. The social economy also includes housing cooperatives, which make environmentally efficient housing more affordable to people. Additionally, ethical and sustainable finance organisations play an enormous role in the social economy, since our organisations always fit the criteria of being ethical in the way we conduct business, with the rights of employees, gender equality, inclusion of vulnerable people and those typically far from the labour market. Ms Bussi then described the role of ENSIE, and how this organisation targets disadvantaged groups through Work Integration Social Enterprises (WISEs). She explained about the Impact WISE study, which indicates how WISEs are looking at the environment and are in fact very active in reuse, and recycling activities. During this event, she explained that we have seen we have seen amazing examples of how the social economy can be combined with environmental objectives. She then summarised some of the points made during the event. She described how we have heard from REScoops and energy communities, where jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprises reduce carbon emissions via renewable energy cooperatives; the Just transition, and how enterprises and sustainable businesses link to the social economy principles link together to learn more about how they can learn more about the environment. We hear about social agriculture and how disadvantaged groups can be included again in work and society. The CO2 emissions calculator and the impact of us learning about our own impact. Additionally, the management of water through social economy principles. This is innovative and all these examples can be replicated and scaled up! The final conclusion was that we need a link between social and Green at EU level. We need Social economy to be mainstreamed in the EU Green Deal and in green policies, such as the sustainable product initiatives and the sustainable textiles strategy. We also need the Action Plan for the Social Economy to have an environmental aspect included. She finished by thanking Nicholas Clark and Julija Kekstaite, RREUSE and all the participants. Social Economy Europe and RREUSE would like to thank all the panellists and the attendees for making this an incredible learning event, with such strong messages to take to the Conference on the Future of Europe.
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