Social enterprises are businesses trading for social and environmental purposes.
As with all businesses, they compete to deliver goods and services. The difference is that social purpose is at the very heart of what they do, they have a business model to deliver that social purpose and profits they make are reinvested towards achieving that same purpose. The government defines social enterprises as “businesses with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners.”
Social enterprises operate in almost every industry in the UK, from health and social care to renewable energy, from retail to recycling, from employment to sport, from housing to education.
Social Enterprises are defined by Social Enterprise UK, the national membership body for social enterprises, as organisations that:
Have an enshrined social and/or environmental purpose
Have their majority of income earned through trading
Reinvest the majority of profits
Are independent of government
Social enterprises often measure their social impact and have high standards when it comes to accountability and transparency.