Social enterprises and sustainable development
Date: Wednesday, September 29 @ 22:19:28 BST
A draft policy statement by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) sets out how social enterprises can meet ministerial targets to tackle social exclusion and achieve basic levels of services in rural areas.
‘The principles driving social enterprise of meeting economic, social and often environmental objectives make it a natural partner in delivery of sustainable development,’ the paper states. ‘Social enterprise has the potential to make a significant contribution to the achievement of Defra’s objectives.’
Defra’s wooing of social enterprises coincides with a growing acceptance of the sector in government circles. This week’s Labour Party conference voted for social enterprises to be given seats on regional development agency boards, as well as better access to finance and public procurement.
It remains to be seen if this forward thinking will reach as far as Wales. With the ingestion of the WDA into the assembly it could be an rda too far. This comes on the heels of the The Rural Strategy announced by the Secretary of State Margaret Beckett earlier this year, who put forward measures aimed specifically at improving rural services for those less able to access them.
Ex Welsh first minister and now rural affairs minister Alun Michael, said: "there is an important minority who find it difficult to access services. We must continue to concentrate our efforts in this area."
The resolution, contained in Prosperity for all, a document from the party’s policy forum, said: ‘Social enterprises will be promoted as an alternative business model that creates wealth and employment and enhances choice and diversity as we seek to create a more plural and competitive economy.
‘We want social enterprises to be better represented on RDA boards and other similar bodies. Labour’s policies should help local authorities to strengthen local economies and ensure that everyone benefits from new investment and job opportunities.’
Defra, which is taking the lead in updating the government’s sustainable development strategy, says social enterprises address social and environmental issues in ‘many parts of the economy where Defra has policy objectives’. But it admits policymakers have a limited understanding of the sector.
The new strategy, to be launched next spring, will ‘highlight the many opportunities to build on synergies between what social enterprises can achieve and our objectives for sustainable development’.
The paper says there are ‘particularly strong links’ between social enterprise and the strategy’s four proposed priority areas - climate change and energy; sustainable consumption and production, and use of natural resources; environment and social justice; and helping communities to help themselves.
The Labour resolution was welcomed by Social Enterprise Coalition chief executive Jonathan Bland. ‘Our next aim is to make sure this policy gets into the next Labour Party manifesto and in those of the other political parties,’ he added.
Sources- newstart, Defra .