New Frontiers in the Legal Structure and Legislation of Social Enterprises in Europe: A Comparative Analysis
EUI Working Papers LAW No. 2008/16
48 Pages Posted: 21 Nov 2008
Date Written: June 1, 2008
This paper aims at presenting and discussing policy issues regarding the legal structure and legislation of the social enterprise through the lenses of recent law reforms in Europe. The legislation of seven countries is analysed: Portugal, France, Poland, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Finland and Italy. National models are compared distinguishing them according to the legal form and the main rules concerning asset allocation, governance and responsibility. Aware about the specificity that the legal, social and economic context may entails in each legal system, the authors conclude that, in order to promote a distinctive role for social enterprise in Europe, the law should guarantee: a control mechanism over the social nature of the finality pursued by the organisation, as defined at least per broad principles by the law; the enforcement of a positive (although not total) assets lock to ensure the achievement of social goals; the possibility for the enterprise to sustain its own activity through remunerated financing; a certain degree of stakeholders' interests representation inside the governance of the enterprise, with specific but not necessarily exclusive representation with regards to beneficiaries and employees; the enforcement of a non-discrimination principle concerning the composition of membership, if any; the enforcement of a democratic principle inside the governing bodies which allows pluralism, fair dialogue and no emergence of controlling rights, unless in favour of non profit organisations which share the social goals and the democratic nature of the social enterprise; an adequate degree of accountability which allows sufficient information disclosure, also in favour of third parties, about the governance and the activity of the social enterprise.
Keywords: social enterprise, legal reform, accountability
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