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. 

Where can I learn more about social enterprise? 

The following website have great information about social enterprises: