“We can be the bearers of the new economy”

“We can be the bearers of the new economy”
Written by on100dayloans

Jerome Saddier President of ESS France

Difficult to make your voice heard in this atypical campaign. The social and solidarity economy (ESS) is trying it out. ESS France, its spokesperson for the general public and institutions, has just published a plea addressed to the candidates for the presidential election to call for “promoting the conversion of the economy towards the SSE”. If society’s aspirations are for more democracy in an economy that combines ecological and social transition, then the 165,000 associations, cooperatives, mutuals, foundations and social enterprises, with their 2.4 million employees and their 22 million volunteers, claim a major role in the next five-year term. Jérôme Saddier (1) explains which one.

What is your assessment of these five years?

The results are not 100% positive, far from it. I am thinking, for example, of the recovery plan. This five-year term ends however without great problem with the majority, nor with the outgoing government. Because, in the end, we had to deal with trustworthy interlocutors.

You call for “promoting the conversion of the economy towards the SSE”. What do you mean ?

When preparing the recovery plan, we called for a real planning effort to allow a change of model. The pandemic and the war in Ukraine are bringing to bear heavy economic and social trends that call for in-depth changes to the economy and businesses. The latter can no longer remain in their current mode of operation, based solely on ownership and competition. They must be based on the people who compose them. Our organizations are democratic. We therefore propose the establishment of a fund for the conversion of lucrative private companies towards the social and solidarity economy. The recovery plan is what it is: it does not involve any transformation effort. The government could have counted on the ESS to be the operator of this new economy. We stick to the dominant discourse, for which there is only one form of business, that of capital, carried by the most ideologues who explain to us that non-profitmaking is inefficient. It’s time to change the tune.

Transforming the economy was precisely one of the objectives of the Pacte law of 2019, carried by Bruno Le Maire, with in particular the creation of companies with a mission? Do we need a super Pact law?

We must go much further, by diving into the heart of how companies operate. The latter are faced with increasingly contradictory injunctions. They must be profitable, demonstrate a demanding social dialogue, go beyond labor law to treat their employees better, offer meaning in order to attract young people in particular, be transparent for customers and consumers, behave like a responsible player vis-à-vis the territory in which they operate, and be concerned about its environmental impact. Non-profit organizations like ours are best able to respond to these challenges.

Do you manage to carry this claim in the presidential campaign?

Apart from salary issues, about which we have things to argue, especially for those who have been called the first and second lines during the pandemic, what we have to defend does not strike. We remain confident, because the spirit of the times is blowing in our direction. Our fellow citizens know that we will have to invest for an ecological and social transition. But not anyhow. On the other hand, the new relationships at work, the balance between personal and professional life, are also favorable to us, as well as the reflections on the evolution of companies. Civil society is ahead on these issues. We represent the initiatives that abound in the territories. These subjects should emerge more strongly during the legislative campaign.

Does the ESS support a candidate?

We do not give voting instructions. The SSE is very diverse and covers a very broad political spectrum. This does not mean that the SSE is apolitical. This movement is political. I plead for its organizations to reclaim this role. On the other hand, we are very clear vis-à-vis the far-right candidacies represented by Marine Le Pen and Éric Zemmour, whom we have not invited to our work. The application of their program would require us to distance ourselves from the constitutional principles which found freedom.

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