Events on the opinion issued by the European Economic and Social Committee
Posted on October 22, 2015 by Alicia Trepat Pont | Blog
SME Intergroup discussion
Earlier this week, on the 20th of October 2015 a breakfast on the Economy for the Common Good (ECG) was hold in the European Parliament. This event took place after the Economic and Social European Committee issued an Opinion in favour of the Economy for the Common Good on September 17th 2015.
The representatives of the ECG movement were Christian Felber, its founder, and Lisa Muhr and Hilde Weckmann, two entrepreneurs who lead their companies according to the ECG guidelines and issue Common Good Balance Sheets through which they measure their contribution to society and set their areas of improvement.
There were some interesting points raised during the discussion. After the presentation by the ECG representatives, it was claimed that the principles exposed are the ones that have been aimed by the European Commission and by some of the MEPs in the last years. This is good news. The landscape is challenging though, this same speaker claimed that according to UN Global Compact’s sources, only a 2% of the total number of large corporations are behaving in a responsible way while doing business.
This is an alarming figure. The reporting directive on non-financials Directive 2014/95/EU on disclosure of non-financial and diversity information by certain large undertakings and groups is, of course, a step forward, but the speed in which such processes are being implemented is clearly insufficient. This challenge was acknowledged by EU representative themselves, who highlighted that they are looking for ways to scale-up & speed-up this process that started in the year 2000.
Multi-stakeholder processes are highly complex and even more in such political contexts where each party involved has such strong interests to represent; but we are talking about 15 years…
Which measures can facilitate this process? From the ECG perspective, companies that positively contribute to society (meaning companies that are being accountable for their actions, that take care of the environment, society and of their stakeholders’ interests, etc. ) should be rewarded with measures such as lower taxes, eligibility to public procurement, easier and cheaper access to market, and others, answered Christian Felber.
He says such a system would be a truly liberal one, because everyone would have the same rights and liberties.
(We all know from our own experiences that this is not a reality with our current political, economic and social systems: too big to fail, too big to jail and tax havens are just three examples of the unfair ultimate advantages some players have in them).
It is an aim of the Global Hub for the Common Good to speed-up this changing process.
The discussion took a theoretical turn as it was claimed that the ECG movement was not the starting point of the Common Good, this had already been named and used centuries ago. Moreover, what is common good? What is something ethical?
Ethics is a discussion on values, therefore, depending on the values, the word “ethical” can have extremely different interpretations.
We couldn’t agree more and we couldn’t care less.
Theoretical discussions are important, but they can also distract from the main goal, which is to achieve a system (a social, economic and political one) that achieves common good for all of us, also in the long-run (meaning that our future generations should be able to keep living onthis planet without us having compromised their capacity of doing so).
Of course, the ECG approach does not belong to anyone specifically, in the end, it is about acting with “common-sense”, acting from the universal values of human dignity, freedom and solidarity. And to do that, there is no need to belong to any movement, you can do it as an individual or even as a company. The difficulty arises when your company cannot survive or is struggling because others are not acting according to these values and, therefore, they have a bigger – economic – competitive advantage. That is the world we live in. And that is what needs to be changed to achieve sustainable development. Our system’s incentives are currently pointing to the wrong direction.
The ECG does not aim to be the starter of any theoretical trend. It is a relevant catalyzer of Common Good with a real approach, a practical one: the ECG offers documents under creative commons license that provide guidance for companies to apply the principles on their Balance Sheets; support groups of three companies are organised so that they can exchange experiences, go through difficulties together and offr each other support; these among other measures as Christian explained during the discussion (Please visit https://www.ecogood.org/en for more information on how to re-orient your company towards ECG standards).
More than 300 companies worldwide are issuing their ECG Balance Sheets and it is a growing trend. Moreover, an ethical bank will be launched in 2016, ECG chairs are being open in several universities and this approach is a source of inspiration for entrepreneurs to found ethical start-ups.
The ECG is a serious proposal to make this world a better place and this week’s step is a relevant one. The ECG representative team is aware that the European Parliament surely hosts a very different type of discussion-breakfasts. The fact that this discussion on systemic change could take place in those premises is one more milestone achieved, one more step forward. Many more to come in the next months, stay tuned!
Tags: debate, ECG, Economy for the Common Good, European Parliament, policy making, SME