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Social enterprises: report presents first comparative overview

17/11/2014 Social enterprises: report presents first comparative overview

Social enterprises are an important driver for inclusive growth and play a key role in tackling current economic and environmental challenges, according to a report published by the European Commission.

Yet, only seven countries (Bulgaria, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Sweden, and United Kingdom) have a policy framework in place to encourage and support the development of social enterprises.

For the first time, this in-depth study outlines the main features of social enterprises in 28 EU Member States and Switzerland using a common definition and approach.

It also gives an overview of social enterprise eco-systems across countries, including factors constraining their development.

This study is a starting point for developing a comprehensive map of social enterprises in Europe. To help us further expand our knowledge of the reality of social enterprises in the EU and Switzerland, please share your comments in the online feedback form.

The study follows up on the Social Business Initiative launched by the Commission in 2011. It outlines national policy and legal frameworks for social enterprises, including best practices to accelerate the growth of the social enterprise ecosystem.

It also identifies barriers faced by social enterprises, such as

  • poor visibility and recognition of the sector,
  • the constraints of current legal and regulatory frameworks,
  • limited financial resources,
  • difficult access to markets,
  • and the lack of business support and development structures, training, and workforce development.

The study notes growing convergence towards the definition of social enterprise as "an autonomous organization that combines a social purpose with entrepreneurial activity". It highlights that support structures are under-developed and fragmented, with the exception of Italy, France, and the UK. However, social enterprise policy is currently under development in seven countries (Ireland, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, and Romania).

The study is based on existing academic materials and interviews with over 350 stakeholders across Europe and was supported by a team of five independent academics who provided methodological support, conducted peer reviews and reviewed the final report.