Social enterprises combine societal goals with entrepreneurial spirit. These organisations focus on achieving wider social, environmental or community objectives. The European Commission aims to create a favourable financial, administrative and legal environment for these enterprises so that they can operate on an equal footing with other types of enterprises in the same sector. The Social Business Initiative launched in 2011 identified actions to make a real difference and improve the situation on the ground for social enterprises.
A social enterprise is an operator in the social economy whose main objective is to have a social impact rather than make a profit for their owners or shareholders. It operates by providing goods and services for the market in an entrepreneurial and innovative fashion and uses its profits primarily to achieve social objectives. It is managed in an open and responsible manner and, in particular, involves employees, consumers and stakeholders affected by its commercial activities.
The Commission uses the term 'social enterprise' to cover the following types of business:
There is no single legal form for social enterprises.
Many operate in the form of social cooperatives, some are registered as private companies limited by guarantee, some are mutual, and a lot of them are no-profit-distributing organisations like provident societies, associations, voluntary organisations, charities or foundations.
Despite their diversity, social enterprises mainly operate in four fields:
The Social Business Initiative (SBI), launched in 2011, aims to:
The initiative is implemented in close partnership with stakeholders in the sector and EU countries.
The plan contains 11 priority measures, organised around three themes:
Action 2: Encourage the development of microcredit in Europe, specifically by improving the related legal and institutional framework.
Action 3: Set up an EU financial instrument to provide easier access to funding.
Action 4: Make social enterprises an investment priority of the European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund.
Action 6: Create a public database of labels and certifications applicable to social enterprises in Europe.
Action 7: Help national and regional governments introduce measures to support, promote and finance social enterprises.
Action 8: Create a multilingual information and exchange platform for social entrepreneurs, business incubators and clusters, as well as social investors. Increase the visibility of EU programmes to support social entrepreneurs and make it easier to obtain funding.
Action 10: Make quality and working conditions more important criteria for the awarding of public procurement contracts, particularly for social and health services.
Action 11: Simplify the rules for awarding public aid to social and local services (which would benefit many social enterprises).
The Expert Group on Social Entrepreneurship (Groupe d'experts de la Commission sur l'entrepreneuriat social - GECES) is consulted by the Commission on the development, setting up and implementation of all the actions mentioned in the SBI and the further development of social entrepreneurship and social economy. A sub-group of GECES, the Social Impact Measurement Sub-group was set up in 2012 to agree on a methodology to measure the socio-economic benefits created by social enterprises.
The Social Business Initiative team (205 kB)
On Twitter: @SocEntEU