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What is a social enterprise?

Social enterprises are businesses that trade to tackle social problems, improve communities, people’s life chances, or the environment.

They make their money from selling goods and services in the open market, but they reinvest their profits back into the business or the local community. And so when they profit, society profits.

Social enterprises are in our communities and on our high streets – from coffee shops and cinemas, to pubs and leisure centres, banks and bus companies.

What makes a social enterprise a social enterprise?

The term ‘social enterprise’ came about from recognition that in the UK and across the world, there were organisations using the power of business to bring about social and environmental change without a single term to unite them.

Social Enterprise UK offer  a pragmatic definition  in terms of these characteristics:

Social enterprises should

  • Have a clear social and/or environmental mission set out in their governing documents

  • Generate the majority of their income through trade

  • Reinvest the majority of their profits

  • Be autonomous of state

  • Be majority controlled in the interests of the social mission

  • Be accountable and transparent

 

More about social enterprise