About social enterprise

WHAT ARE SOCIAL ENTERPRISES?

Have you ever bought the Big Issue? Read it over a bar of Divine chocolate with a cup of Cafe Direct coffee? Watched Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen? Visited the Eden Project? Shopped at the Co-op? 

Well, then you already know a bit about social enterprises: businesses that are changing the world for the better. 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.

Social enterprises 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.

New to social enterprise? Read our FAQs.

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 believes 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

Read more about this in the short paper, What makes a social enterprise a social enterprise?

SOCIAL ENTERPRISE UK

We are the national body for social enterprise. We represent our members and help grow the social enterprise movement. Find out more about what we do, and about becoming a member.

SHORT FILM

This three minute film features the social enterprises - Stour Space, The People's Supermarket and Fifteen.