What exactly is a social enterprise?

What is a social enterprise? Find out here with our handy guide.

Social enterprises, like any other businesses, sell goods or services and need to make a financial profit. They differ from mainstream businesses however, in that they are primarily driven by SOCIAL and/or ENVIRONMENTAL OBJECTIVES and their profits are principally reinvested in the work of the enterprise or the local community.

The number of ‘not-for-private-profits’ in the UK is increasing rapidly and it is estimated that at least 1 in every 5 business start-ups has a primarily social or environmental purpose.

Social Enterprises operate in just about every industry including farming, renewable energy, retailing, education, manufacturing and providing health care. They employ millions of people across the globe.

Just some of the larger social enterprises you may have heard of include The Co-op supermarket chain, The Big Issue and the Eden Project. For more local enterprises, please see our Directory of Members.

Social Enterprises operate under a wide range of legal forms from Companies Limited by Guarantee to Community Development Trusts to Co-operatives.

So if you would like to put people and planet at the heart of your new venture and find out more about starting up a social enterprise, please join us!

SENS Peer-to-Peer Network Meetings

SENS – The Social Enterprise Network Somerset.


To find out about social entrepreneurship, please watch this short ‘SENS’ video by our namesake – the Social Economy Network of Serbia!