Big business boost for Europe’s entrepreneurs

April 01, 2000

Make Europe more inclusive….

The Lisbon summit ended with European leaders setting a target to create 20 million jobs over the next decade. The leaders made specific commitments to encourage the foundation of small companies, make finance for enterprise more readily available and adapt their economies to the Internet age. Specific goals were set on modernising welfare systems, strengthening investments in education and combating social exclusion.

During the summit, nineteen of Europe’s business leaders came together in a unique initiative coordinated by EBNSC and the Copenhagen Centre to present twelve ‘proposals for action’ to the heads of state. In a special report, for an Entrepreneurial and Inclusive Europe, the companies cited the challenges posed by globalisation, the telecoms revolution and Europe’s low skill/low employment labour markets. The proposals commit business to working with the education system, expanding access to information technology, voluntarily reporting their social impact and sharing models of best practice. Companies involved include Accor , BT , IBM , Johnson & Johnson , Levi Strauss and Shell .

EBNSC is now planning a five-year campaign to engage over half a million business people across the continent in partnerships. As an example, just prior to the summit, IBM hosted a conference in Brussels, Learning in the New Millennium , attended by 250 education officials from 23 European countries. Focused on how to use ICT in schools, the company presented its Reinventing Education programme, now running in Ireland, Italy and the UK. Contact Jan Noterdaeme, EBNSC on 00 32 2 502 83 54 ( or Celia Moore, IBM, on 020 7202 3187 (

… and more entrepreneurial

UNICE, the Union of Industrial and Employers’ Confederations of Europe, has issued a benchmarking report drawing out key measures of entrepreneurship around the world. The report shows that it takes only one week to set up a company in the UK compared to a European average of eleven weeks. The cost of forming a business is 420 euros in the United Kingdom but 3,400 euros in France. The minimum capital to set up a limited liability company in Germany is 25,000 euros compared to nothing in the UK and 2,000 euros in Ireland. UNICE hopes such benchmark data will spur reform of national and European systems and help move the EU towards a more pro-entrepreneurial stance. Contact UNICE on 00 32 2 237 65 11 (

Youth Business Trusts go global

Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana are the latest additions to a set of youth business initiatives being set up by Youth Business International, a joint initiative between the Prince’s Trust and the Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum. Companies involved so far include BT, Shell, BP Amoco, PricewaterhouseCoopers and KPMG. The participating countries are Argentina, Belize, Barbados, Canada, UK, The Gambia, Ghana, Guyana, India, Mauritius, Oman, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Swaziland. Contact Rachel Chambers, Youth Business International, on 020 7467 3600 (

LiveWire expands internationally

LiveWire, the youth enterprise programme backed by Shell , helped nearly 30,000 young people in the UK during 1999 with advice on starting their own business, up more than a quarter on the previous year. Enquiries came in equal shares from unemployed people, those already in work and students, with a strong swing towards more women expressing interest. Shell has supported LiveWire in the United Kingdom since 1982 and it now operates in eight countries, with start-ups planned soon in Brazil, Mauritius, Portugal and Singapore. Contact Shell on 020 7934 1234 (

Partnership alchemy in Europe

The Copenhagen Centre published a new study of cross-sector partnerships in Europe in March. Partnership Alchemy by Jane Nelson and Simon Zadek draws lessons from good practice in involving companies round Europe. Marks and Spencer and Shell are among British companies cited, along with continental companies such as Rabobank and Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux . The study concludes with profiles of ‘business in society’ coalitions and learning networks such as the Cecile Network on employee involvement, Spain’s Fundació Empresa y Sociedad and Italy’s Sodalitas Contact The Copenhagen Centre on 00 45 3392 9443 (


A curious and depressing paradox: just as scepticism in Britain about ‘Europe’ reaches new heights, continental governments and companies seem ready to adopt a recognisably ‘British’ approach to promoting enterprise and harnessing the help of socially responsible big business. The Lisbon summit was truly historic in addressing these issues, even if a certain scepticism is proper about the speed with which the Commission and some national governments will now embrace the new agenda.

The biggest danger is that, some companies having offered to get involved, governments’ dirigiste tendencies will take over. Full consultation and a willingness to be flexible is the only approach that will succeed in growing this initiative. Business and intermediaries in the UK have accumulated huge experience over the last two decades, from which their continental counterparts can profitably learn while devising their own locally appropriate solutions. And for the long term, common experiences like the impact of globalisation and similar trends like liberalisation and privatisation mean that a new Europe is being formed, one in which British companies can feel at home, whatever the xenophobic elements in the media may say.

Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 51 – April, 2000