Social enterprises are businesses that are changing the world for the better. Like traditional businesses they aim to make a profit but it’s what they do with their profits that sets them apart – reinvesting or donating them to create positive social change.  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.

By selling goods and services in the open market, social enterprises create employment and reinvest their profits back into their business or the local community. This allows them to tackle social problems, improve people’s life chances, provide training and employment opportunities for those furthest from the market, support communities and help the environment.

Social enterprises exist in nearly every sector from consumer goods to healthcare, community energy to creative agencies, restaurants to facilities management. Well known examples include The Big Issue, Divine Chocolate and the Eden Project but there are over 100,000 social enterprises throughout the country contributing £60 billion to the economy and employing two million people.

They’re creating jobs and opportunities for those most marginalised from the workforce, transforming the communities they work in and making the Sustainable Development Goals a reality. It’s business for good and when they profit, society profits.

We define social enterprises as businesses that:

  • Your business has a clear social or environmental mission that is set out in its governing documents.
  • You are an independent business and earn more than half of your income through trading (or are working towards this)
  • You are controlled or owned in the interests of your social mission
  • You reinvest or give away at least half your profits or surpluses towards your social purpose
  • You are transparent about how you operate and the impact that you have

Click here to find out more about some of our social enterprise members.

Social Enterprises in Depth

Our State of Social Enterprise Report is the most comprehensive research undertaken into the state of the sector. It shows that social enterprises in the UK are thriving, outperforming their mainstream SME counterparts in nearly every area of business: turnover growth, workforce growth, job creation, innovation, business optimism, and start-up rates. They are also taking on the challenges posed by the triple threat of economic stagnation, social division and the climate emergency. Here are some of the key findings: