Social and solidarity economy: what are we talking about?

Kit departementalESS n°1

June 2021

Réseau des collectivités Territoriales pour une Economie Solidaire (RTES)

In connection with the renewal of departmental and regional executives in June 2021, the RTES is proposing a DepartmentalESS kit to raise awareness among candidates and provide tools for future teams wishing to support the social and solidarity economy (SSE).

This kit will include about twenty practical sheets, based on the principle of the MunicipalESS Kit published in 2020, illustrated with examples, and presenting in a synthetic and concrete way how a regional council can include the SSE in its policies.

The first sheet, prepared by the RTES, is common to both kits (regional and departmental). It provides an overview of the contemporary SSE landscape.

The many recent crises have shown the relevance of the SSE in meeting the current challenges in the territories.

It is an economy of proximity, contributing to the creation of jobs and local dynamics.

The SSE places at the heart of its project the question of the territorialization of added value, and is the bearer of many innovations:

recycling and reuse, short circuits, sustainable food, the fight against energy insecurity, renewable energy, etc.

Its diversity makes it rich, but also makes it sometimes difficult to understand: the SSE deploys its activities in fields as varied as home help, financial and insurance activities, medico-social and social accommodation, culture and sport, trade and agriculture.

The SSE Act of July 2014 defines the scope of SSE enterprises in its Article 1:

SSE is « a mode of entrepreneurship and economic development adapted to all areas of human activity to which legal persons under private law that meet the cumulative following conditions:

1. a goal other than the sole sharing of profits

2. democratic governance, defined and organised by the articles of association, providing for the information and participation […] of members, employees and stakeholders in the company’s achievements

3. management in accordance with the following principles

Article 1 of Law n°2014-856 of 31 July 2014 on the SSE

The Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) thus groups together a set of structures that have various statutory forms:

Based on a strong territorial anchorage (they are first and foremost groups of people), they play a major role in urban and rural areas, in the development of services to the population, in the creation of non relocatable jobs and in the contribution to the quality of life in the territories.

The SSE in a few figures (2019)

2.4 million employees,

i.e. 14% of private salaried employment

221,325 employer establishments

More than 13 million volunteers

68% women Between 2010 and 2019,

84,843 jobs created

But a recent drop in the number of jobs due in particular to the reduction in subsidised jobs and the impact of the health crisis (52,500 jobs lost between June 2019 and June 2020)

The voluntary sector represents nearly

83% of employer establishments,

77% of jobs and 69% of the wage bill

Unlike traditional companies,

81% of the largest cooperatives have their head office in the regions

Sources: Observatoire de l’ESS - CNCRESS & Panorama des coopératives 2018 - CoopFR

An economic model based on a hybridisation of resources

The economic model of SSE enterprises varies depending on the enterprise and the field of activity: some enterprises are 100% market-based, others rely on non-market or even non-monetary, public and private resources. They all share the principle of non-profit or limited profit-making.

The majority of SSE structures, and in particular its main component, the associations, mobilise various resources (sales of products or services, public subsidies for the general interest missions they provide, income from activities, membership fees, donations, sponsorship of skills, etc.), not forgetting voluntary contributions in kind (valuing voluntary work, loan of premises and equipment).

An economy with a long history that meets today’s challenges

Although the social and solidarity economy has ancient roots (the term social economy and the first workers’ associations, cooperatives and mutual aid societies date back to the first half of the 19th century), its methods and principles of action make it a player capable of responding to current issues.

For example, it provides responses to changes in work and employment, based in particular on cooperation and mutualisation:

An economy of transition in the territories

The social/solidarity-based economy is more broadly an actor in the transition of territories, ecological, democratic and digital transition, but also energy transition, with the development of energy cooperatives, for example. It embodies a way of undertaking, producing and consuming that respects employees, consumers, citizens and future generations.

An economy participating in the general interest

Through its fields of activity, its methods and its values, the social and solidarity economy thus intersects with the mission of general interest and the various competences of local authorities. The implementation of a public policy to support the social and solidarity economy makes it possible to encourage the development of the SSE in the territories (see sheet 2).

To go further

  • The commented Atlas of the SSE 2020, National Observatory of the SSE - ESS FRANCE, September 2020

  • Video My day with the social economy, SSE actors - Belgium - 2019

  • What is the SSE? - Géraldine Lacroix, Romain Slitine, Que sais-je? - May 2019