Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

Supporting entrepreneurs and the self-employed - Social entrepreneurship

A social enterprise combines entrepreneurial activity with a social purpose. Its main aim is to have a social impact, rather than maximise profit for owners or shareholders. Businesses providing social services and/or goods and services to vulnerable persons are a typical example of social enterprise.

Challenges and policy responses

Access to finance

Access to finance is one of the main obstacles to the growth of social enterprises, as identified in the Social Business Initiative (SBI) adopted by the Commission in 2011.

Therefore, the Commission:

The Commission also supports social enterprise via the European Social Fund.

Measuring the social impact

Social enterprises aim to make a positive impact on society. One of their challenges is to make this impact visible and tangible and to measure it. There are plenty of measuring tools available, but the approaches are diverse and comparability is compromised. Therefore the Commission's expert group on social entrepreneurship (GECES) produced a report proposing key principles to be followed when measuring social impact:

Mapping social enterprises in the EU

The characteristics of social enterprises differ a lot from country to country concerning their number, size, legal forms and fields of activities. To create a clearer picture, the Commission has carried out a series of studies, mapping the reality of social enterprises in the 35 European countries using a common definition and approach.

The separate country reports provide key data on social enterprises and their eco-systems, including factors constraining their development, in 28 EU countries, as well as in Albania, Iceland, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia and Turkey.

The EU level synthesis report collates and interprets the key findings from the separate country reports and draws a European picture of social enterprises and the environments in which they operate, the “ecosystems”. The report brings together a comprehensive picture of different country traditions, salient trends and key challenges across Europe.

Towards an enabling ecosystem

The Social Business Initiative invites EU countries to develop an environment which enables social enterprises to start and develop. In cooperation with the OECD, the Commission has published policy briefs, a compendium of good practices and in-depth country reviews, with policy pointers for those engaged in improving their national policy environments:

The European Commission and the OECD have also jointly developed a Better entrepreneurship policy tool, which can act as a catalyst to improve entrepreneurship policies in a city, region or EU country. The tool covers the policies supporting entrepreneurship by people from vulnerable groups, as well as social entrepreneurship.

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