What is a social enterprise?
There is no universally accepted definition for a social enterprise. Despite this, many practitioners and academics agree on shared characteristics for social enterprises, namely that social enterprises:
- are primarily motivated by solving a social and/or environmental challenge
- sell goods or services on the open market
- generate the majority of their income through trade
- reinvest the majority of their profits into the achievement of the company's social and/or environmental mission
- are autonomous of the state
- are accountable and transparent
- seek to measure their social and/or environmental impact
Social enterprises can be non-profit organizations, for-profit businesses, co-operatives or charities.
What's an example of a social enterprise?
Canadian social enterprises include:
- GoodFoot Delivery - trains and employs people with disabilities as couriers.
- Options For Homes - develops affordable housing and flexible financing, making homeownership possible for lower-income people.
- Forward Vision Games - builds financial literacy games for schools, entrepreneurship programs and First Nations communities.
Global social enterprises include:
- TOMS - sells consumer apparel, including shoes, sunglasses and bags. For every item sold, TOMs gives away one item to an individual in need.
- d.light - provides distributed solar energy solutions for off-grid households and small businesses.
- CASA - provides home care for seniors, people with disabilities, and those with complex care needs. CASA is a co-op in which all employees are member-owners.