On 4 June 2020, the European Commission published its report ‘Making Socially Responsible Public Procurement Work: Good Practice Cases’ on the role of social economy enterprises in public procurement. CECOP welcomes the recognition of the important role played by social cooperatives and social economy enterprises and congratulates its member organization from Italy on being featured as good practice cases. 

The report highlights the cases of from virtuous procurement initiatives involving social cooperatives in Italy affiliated to CECOP member Confcooperative Federsolidarietà (Tuscany region and Brescia municipality); by providing valuable services to their communities whilst employing people from disadvantaged groups, these cooperatives show how public procurement and social goals can go hand in hand. Moreover, examples from Poland, Bulgaria and Greece document how authorities ensured how tenders can be designed to support the social economy, showing the importance of reliable legal and institutional frameworks for cooperation with the social economy.

Social cooperatives and social economy enterprises are valuable service providers for their communities, combining high quality services and social responsibility with participatory governance. Whereas some public authorities are making use of these values by adding social provisions to tenders enabling cooperation with the social economy, overall implementation of socially responsible public procurement is lacking. The European Commission issued a directive on public procurement in 2014, providing a comprehensive legal framework for public procurement that allows for the better inclusion of social criteria in public tenders. Alas, public authorities often show concerns that including social criteria in tenders makes these more complicated to manage or may lead to legal repercussions or are not aware of the opportunity to use public procurement as a way to support local and socially responsible businesses.

To raise awareness of the options for authorities to include social criteria into tenders, the Commission issued this detailed report on best practices learned from across the union to ensure that authorities are aware of the options to make public spending bring the highest benefit possible to their communities. CECOP welcomes the efforts taken by the European Commission to ensure that the social economy and its potential is recognised in public tenders. However, efforts on European level need to be stepped up to ensure that authorities – local, regional and national alike – are aware of the potential values added by cooperating with social economy actors, such as cooperatives and that they make the best use of the provisions from the 2014 directive. The cases in Italy put a particular emphasis on the importance of established legal and institutional frameworks to support the cooperation between public authorities and the social economy, as well to establish standards by which the partners can be held accountable.