Social Enterprise Header showing a variety of types

What is a Social Enterprise?

A social enterprise is a business driven by a social or environmental purpose.

As with any business, a social enterprise competes to deliver goods and services to customers in the marketplace. However, social enterprises differ from traditional businesses in that profits are re-invested to achieve, sustain and further its social or environmental purpose while still ensuring financial viability.

Common Objectives

A Social enterprise aims to be highly entrepreneurial, collaborative, sustainable and innovative in running its operation.  Some common objectives of social enterprises are:

  • To provide business ownership opportunities for individuals and groups of individuals who face barriers to business ownership.
  • To provide training and meaningful employment opportunities for community members, often for those new to the workforce or facing barriers to employment.
  • To enhance wages and working conditions in a specific industry, particularly those characterized by low wages, lack of benefits and poor working conditions.
  • To offer products and services from local resources in environmentally friendly and healthy ways, to meet local needs or fill gaps in the local economy.
  • To strengthen relationships between local producers and local buyers.
  • To employ participatory and democratic decision-making and business management.
  • To become more self-sustaining by generating income and profits through the sales of products and services.
  • To reduce dependency on charitable donations, grants and government funding.
  • To reduce the time spent on fundraising efforts and reporting to funders.
  • To enhance self-reliance, which can result in more freedom and control to fulfill an overall socio-economic-environment community mission.

Many social enterprises adhere to the Community Economic Development (CED) Principles:

  • Local employment
  • Local ownership and decision-making
  • Local economic linkages
  • Re-investment of profits in communities
  • Local knowledge and skill development
  • Positive environmental impact
  • Health and well-being
  • Neighborhood stability and community cohesion
  • Human dignity
  • Interdepartmental and intergovernmental collaboration
For further information, please contact us.

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