Stakeholders meet to discuss social enterprise bill
The growing importance of a socially driven economy was one of the main conclusions of an event recently organized by FPEI
The Social Enterprise Bill, which is currently in its final stages in parliament, was recently discussed by key stakeholders at an event organized by FPEI, the Maltese Foundation for the Promotion of Entrepreneurial Initiatives. The panel of speakers discussed the support and opportunities social enterprises would benefit from once the sector is regulated, as well as ways to help these entities thrive.
During a brief introduction, FPEI Director Matthew Caruana explained that social enterprises are essential to the broader business landscape, as they offer solutions to environmental, societal and community issues. As might be expected, however, access to finance remains a challenge for companies of this type, as a number of panelists pointed out.
Roberta Lepre, Social Entrepreneurs Association Malta (SEAM), stressed that social entrepreneurs would also benefit from being mentored by established entrepreneurs and learning the ropes of running a business by observing others.
One of the clauses of the bill, which requires a company to submit its business plan to the regulator when it applies to be registered as a social enterprise, has been debated at length.
Lepre expressed concern and SEAM’s that this requirement would force these budding entities to reveal information they might not want to disclose at such an early stage.
Steve Ellul, from the Department of Energy, Enterprise and Sustainable Development, agreed and recommended that instead of a business plan, it might be less invasive for social enterprises to set clear social goals with Specific KPIs attached to them, and for these companies to then be rewarded if they consistently achieve these KPIs.
There needs to be a change of mindset, where companies start to integrate social and environmental aspects into their business model, just like social enterprises do.
While everyone agrees that social enterprises should be encouraged, all speakers also felt that social responsibility should not be limited to this type of enterprise.
âThere has to be a shift in mindset, where companies start to integrate social and environmental aspects into their business model, just like social enterprises do,â Ellul suggested.
Caruana agreed, expressing her hope that all businesses will eventually become green, ethical and socially responsible.
Focusing on the importance of social enterprise, Miriam Dalli, Minister of Energy, Enterprise and Sustainable Development, through a recorded video message, said the law would provide a strong framework that would allow its growth. .
âSocial organizations often focus on important social needs that are often specific to our communities,â said Dalli.
âWithout social enterprises, these needs would take much longer to be detected and addressed by the public sector. That is why we must support these companies and ensure that their efficiency is exploited as much as possible. Our goal is to create a holistic ecosystem that attracts, supports and enables the growth of innovative business ideas with social, environmental and sustainable goals embedded in their business model.
The FPEI is actively involved in the promotion and support of such enterprises.
âWe are currently participating in three Erasmus Plus programs which deal with entrepreneurship and its different branches, such as crowdfunding, adult learning, social entrepreneurship and skills improvement,â explained Giselle Borg Olivier , project manager at the FPEI.
âThe common thread running through these projects is the goal of involving people in the workplace, either by developing their own project and finding ways to fund it or by improving their skills to develop in a more holistic way. .
The event was also addressed by David Pace Ross on behalf of the opposition, and Marthese Portelli, CEO of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry. Both speakers said they looked forward to seeing the bill enacted.
“We have to make it work and we will only be able to achieve this if we identify all the startup problems that will be encountered along the way and solve them together,” added Portelli.
For more information on FPEI and the EU projects mentioned, visit www.fpei.mt.
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