Social enterprises are businesses which trade for a social or environmental purpose. There are more than 100,000 social enterprises in the UK, contributing £60 billion to the economy and employing around two million people. Social enterprises demonstrate a better way to do business, one that prioritises benefit to people and planet and uses the majority of any profit to further their mission. Social enterprises contribute to reducing economic inequality, improving social justice and to environmental sustainability.

What do social enterprises do?

Social enterprises are businesses. Like any other business, they seek to make a profit and succeed commercially. But how they operate, who they employ, how they use their profits and where they work is transforming lives and communities across the UK and around the world.
Social enterprises work in every sector of the UK economy, creating and trading consumer products and services, providing local community resources, running creative agencies, arts organisations, recycling projects, cafes and restaurants, cleaning services and waste management companies. Social enterprises also provide high quality public services, and as many as a third of community healthcare providers are social enterprises.

To be a social enterprise a business must:

  • have a clear social or environmental mission set out in its governing documents and be controlled in the interest of that mission.
  • be independent of state or government control, and earn more than half of its income through trading.
  • re-invest or donate at least half of its profits or surpluses towards their mission.
  • be transparent in the way they operate and the impact they have.