Strapline : making the difference

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What is a social enterprise?

“Social enterprise is about changing the world through business.  Social enterprises exist and trade not to maximise private profit, but to further their social and environmental aims.  In short, social enterprise is about business where everyone profits.” 

Claire Dove OBE DL, Chair of Social Enterprise UK

Well-known social enterprises include The Big Issue, CafeDirect, Divine Chocolate, The Co-operative Group, and the The Eden Project. 

They all share the common defining characteristics of social enterprises:

  • A social enterprise is a business. That means it is engaged in some form of trading, but it trades primarily to support a social purpose. 
  • Each social enterprise has clear social or environmental aims – the difference they are trying to make, the people they are trying to help and why. Fundamentally - the reason they exist in the first place.
  • Like any business, it aims to make a profit, but it seeks to reinvest those profits principally in the business or in the community to enable it to deliver on its social objectives. It is, therefore, not simply a business driven by the need to maximise profit to shareholders or owners. 
  • Social enterprises are structured, owned and governed by a range of stakeholders (e.g. employees, service users, customers, members, local community groups and social investors), or directors who control the enterprise on behalf of a wider group of stakeholders.  

Social Enterprise: 

interesting facts

471,000 social enterprises in the UK. 

1.44 million people employed by social enterprises in the UK.

9% of small business is a social enterprise.

Source: Social Enterprise Market Trends 2017. GOV.UK

Social enterprises are started for many different reasons and can develop from a number of different routes.   They can be completely new ventures or existing organisations that want to become social enterprises e.g. voluntary organisations and charities.  

Coventry and Warwickshire Co-operative Development Agency Limited. Registered in England No. 1676622 Registered Office: 30a Binley Road, Coventry, CV3 1JA