Social enterprise has no settled definition but the term refers to a business for a social purpose: using a business strategy to achieve a social, cultural or environmental goal or another kind of community benefit, rather than for the economic benefit of shareholders or owners. As a business they operate in commercial markets seeking to generate a profit from trade.
Social enterprises may be ‘nonprofit’, returning all profits to the enterprise itself, or they may be ‘for profit’, returning profits to their cooperative owners, the community, or someone else. However, they differ from a for-profit ‘business’ which has adopted a ‘triple bottom line’. The social goal is paramount for a social enterprise, with profit/nonprofit status being a secondary choice; profit status is paramount for a traditional business, with a corporate responsibility stance being a secondary choice.
Visit the Social Traders website to find out more about social enterprise research, history, motivations and case studies.