ILO co-organizes a session on implementing the Sustainable Development Goals through the social and solidarity economy in Asia

The ILO co-organized and participated in a session on implementing the Sustainable Development Goals through the social and solidarity economy (SSE) with UN ESCAP and Asian Solidarity Economy Council (ASEC). The session took place on December 14, 2022 as part of UN ESCAP’s Business Innovation for the SDGs Forum.

News | 16 December 2022
The ILO co-organized the session on “Accelerating Progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals through the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE)” with UN ESCAP and the Asian Solidarity Economy Council (ASEC), as a UN Task Force on the Social and Solidarity Economy (UNTFSSE) event on December 14, 2022.

The objective of the session was to provide a platform for policymakers and stakeholders to reflect on the contributions of the SSE towards achieving the SDGs and share knowledge, know-how and good practices in designing and implementing policies and regulations to support the advancement of the SSE for decent work and sustainable development.

In the opening remarks, Mr. Vic Van Vuuren, Director of the Enterprises Department at the ILO pointed out to the timeliness of this discussion, given the global momentum on the SSE. He noted that the Resolution concerning decent work and the SSE, adopted at the 110th Session of the International Labour Conference in June this year, includes the first tripartite agreed definition of the SSE at the international level. He also noted the ongoing process around the UN General Assembly Resolution on SSE for sustainable development.

Following Mr van Vuuren’s opening remarks Ms. Heejin Ahn, Technical Officer at the Cooperative, Social and Solidarity Economy Unit in ILO Headquarters in Geneva, moderated a round of exchanges with the three speakers from Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. The first speaker Mr. Alfie Othman, the CEO of Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise (raiSE), introuced his organization as a sector developer and membership body. He defined social enterprises as a “business entities set up with clear social goals where there is clear management intent and resources allocated to fulfil social gaps and needs.” He highlighted the key differences between social enterprise as he defined with the internationally agreed definition of the SSE at the 110th International Labour Conference are around the principles of “democratic and/or participatory governance” and “the primacy of people and social purpose over capital in the distribution and use of surpluses and/or profits as well as assets.” Mr Othman pointed out that in Singapore, social enterprises have a bottom line in their business models, to achieve social impact alongside sustainable financial returns. Mr. Othman noted that there is no legislation around social enterprises in Singapore, as the social enterprise sector is still nascent in the country. Mr. Othman cited the biggest challenge as attracting new talents and equipping the future generation with the entrepreneurial mindset and capabilities to become effective social entrepreneurs.

Mr. Thanawut Supangkaratana, Social Enterprise Officer of the Office of Social Enterprise Promotion (OSEP) in Thailand, was the second speaker of the session. He noted that OSEP is the certifying body for social enterprises in Thailand, established after the Social Enterprise Promotion of 2019 was enacted. Mr. Supangkaratana mentioned that there are currently 215 registered social enterprises in the country. To register, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), cooperatives, foundations, or other entities should have a clear social purpose, derive 50 per cent or more of its revenue from sale of goods and/or services, and reinvest 70 per cent or more of its profits back to its social mission, and demonstrate good governance he underlined. Mr. Supangkaratana further highlighted the range of support measures that social enterprises can benefit from, including tax benefits, financial support from the Social Enterprise Promotion Fund, access to training and access to training. Mr. Supangkaratana indicated that the national policy around the promotion of the Bio-Circular-Green Economic Model (BCG model), has great potential to localize the SDGs at the sub-national level. A key challenge is around developing and encouraging the use of social impact measurements, to demonstrate the benefits that the social enterprise is generating through evidence of social outcomes, he suggested. As an opportunity, Mr. Supangkaratana shared his thoughts around how community enterprises in the informal sector could be registered under the Act, to bring greater recognition and support for their activities.

Dr. Dat Chu, Deputy Director of the International Cooperation Department at the Vietnam Cooperative Alliance (VCA) informed the participants that the collective economy is a key priority of the national policy, as reflected in the national Collective and Cooperative Economy Development Strategy 2021-2023. Dr. Chu informed the audience about the efforts around reforming the Cooperative Law of 2012, to widen its scope to include self-help groups, thereby supporting the transition to formality. Dr Chu mentioned that the implementation of Vietnam’s policy for economic development, environmental protection, with the important role of policies and communities, towards people and for the people, known as ESEPP, has been instrumental in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Chu shared a number of good practices, including connecting forest and farmer producer organizations to care for the people and the environment together, its support to cooperatives to adopt e-commerce, and using social media channels, such as TikTok, to market cooperatives’ products. Dr. Dat Chu stressed that more awareness raising is needed around concept of the SSE and its contributions towards decent work and sustainable development, by sharing good practices across countries and regions. Dr. Chu emphasized that SDG 17 on strengthening partnership for sustainable development is key, including with other public and private sectors through better integration of SSE entities into supply chains.

Dr. Benjamin Quiñones, Founder of Asian Solidarity Economy Council (ASEC) gave concluding remarks, noting that the term “social and solidarity economy” is not as well recognized compared to the term “social enterprise” in the Asia-Pacific region. While the number of registered social enterprises are still modest, the total estimated number are far greater – as shown in the studies by the British Council and UN ESCAP. Many of these entities operate in alignment with some or most of the principles and values of the SSE as outlined in the internationally agreed upon definition. The role of the government in recognizing and supporting the contributions of the SSE – through partnership, coordination and cooperation across ministries, public bodies and stakeholders is critical to progress towards achieving the SDGs.