The Rise of Social Enterprises in Europe: Act Konto
Social enterprises focus on having a social impact rather than making a profit for their owners or shareholders. They provide different goods and services for the market in an entrepreneurial and innovative way and often use their profits to achieve social objectives. They are managed in an open, responsible and transparent way and involve employees, consumers, local communities and all other stakeholders affected by their activities.
Act Konto Ltd. is a social enterprise specialised in providing expert accounting services and financial consulting to non-profit organizations and other social enterprises in Croatia. 75% of their workforce consists of persons with disabilities. Any profit generated is reinvested back into local community, educational programmes and work integration of people with disabilities. Employees who have worked for the company for more than two years can enter the ownership structure, so employees are also owners of the company. In 2014, Act Konto won the Key Difference award for diversity in human resources in the category ‘Equality of persons with disabilities’. The award identifies employers who promote diversity in the workplace, combat discrimination and encourage the employment of socially vulnerable groups. Act Konto was founded in 2009 by Act Group in order to provide bookkeeping and accounting services for civil society and non-profit organizations. In 2012 Act transferred its ownership to employees. Today, Act Konto is a successful company owned by its employees – persons with disabilities – with more than 40 permanent clients and continually expanding.
According to a recent study, social enterprises like this are on the rise throughout Europe. Known as WISEs (Work Integration Social Enterprises), they play an important role in promoting social inclusion and employment of underprivileged groups in society. The main objective of WISEs is to help unemployed, people who are harder to reach into jobs and those at risk of permanent exclusion from the labour market. Work integration is a key field of activity for European social enterprises.
Persons with disabilities are one of the most vulnerable groups in the labour market: their unemployment rate is much higher compared to that of the general population. In the EU about 47% of people with disabilities are employed, compared to 72% of the general population. As seen in Act Konto’s example, WISEs can combat those unemployment rates and provide an important access point for their integration into society.
Author: Ivan Petarčić (RRiF-plus d.o.o.)