Promoting socially and environmentally sustainable social enterprise

What is social enterprise?

A social enterprise is an organisation that applies commercial strategies to maximise improvements in human and environmental well-being, rather than maximising profits for external shareholders. Social enterprises can be structured as for-profit or non-profit, and may take the form of a not-for-profit-distribution private company, co-operative, mutual organisation or a charity.

Many commercial enterprises would consider themselves to have social objectives, but commitment to these objectives is motivated by the perception that such commitment will ultimately make the enterprise more financially valuable. Social enterprise differ in that they do not aim to offer a fully commercial return to their investors, except where they believe that doing so will ultimately further their capacity to realise their social and environmental goals.

There are numerous examples of successful social enterprise whose governance and leadership originates within local communities. Social enterprises typically are established to deliver social benefits such as better access to affordable low-cost housing or to healthcare in circumstances where market and/or government failures deny such access to the community. The success or otherwise of social enterprise models depends crucially on the governance, incentives and means of financing employed. EfD will identify, highlight and promote examples of best practice and support new ventures adopting best practice in our Focus Areas.