What is a Social Enterprise

If you are on the search for a truly ethical employer, then a recognised Social Enterprise organisation is definitely a good place to start. 

Why? Because a Social Enterprise sets out to influence positive change in some way, shape, or form.

Social Enterprises come in all shapes and sizes and tackle a diverse range of issues often at a local level.  It is important to note that “Social Enterprise” is not a legal business structure, these organisations can be a sole trader, limited company or a community interest organisation for example. Although the definitive meaning of a social enterprise is still up for debate, the common consensus is that these organisations have a clear social purpose beyond profits and that they aim to sustain themselves via trade and utilise a significant portion of their profits to further their mission.

According to the 2019 Capitalism in Crisis report by Social Enterprise UK, a leading Social Enterprise body, social enterprises demonstrated strong diversity in their management structures with 40% being led by Women and 35% with BAME directors. They look after their workforce too with 76% stating that they are a living wage employer.

For a social enterprise, the cause comes before profit however they often also have a strong focus on sustainability and the environment.

So, what does a business have to do to be a registered Social Enterprise?

Social Enterprise UK is the national membership body of social enterprises, and they have clear guidelines that need to be met before businesses can enter their official membership. They are:

  • Having a clear social or environmental mission enforced in their official documentation.
  • To be reinvesting the majority of their profits in the light of this cause.
  • To be autonomous to the state.
  • That the majority of their control is in the interests of their mission.
  • To be transparent and accountable for their actions.

Some Examples of Successful Social Enterprises. 

Social Bite

Social Bite is an organisation who has set out to end homelessness in Scotland, they are driven by cause, not profit. Reinvesting everything into what they do.

Some of their latest projects include The World Big Sleep Out, to raise money and awareness, and the Nationwide Employment Programme, to support the homeless in their transition back into society through employment.

Company Shop 

Company Shop is another. This award-winning social enterprise works with some of the biggest retailer’s, food suppliers, and manufacturers to repurpose surplus stock which would normally go to waste. In 2019 alone, they handled over 75 million products.

Some of their latest projects include their commitment to support workers and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Harnessing Harder to Reach Surplus project which rescues and re-purposes harder to reach surplus which is higher in the supply chain. 


This social enterprise also based in Scotland provides clean drinking water to millions of people all over the world through profits generated from its craft beer, merchandise, and events.

Some of their projects in Malawi include installing a 5000L solar-powered tank with taps that provide easily accessible water to "Mama Nora`s" nursery school programme and the wider community, and in Pindani Village they installed two new boreholes after the original was left unfunctional due to vandalism. 

All of these organisations have set out to make an impact, and what better way to be a part of that impact than by working for the employers themselves.

Find our more: You can learn more about Social Enterprises and Social Entrepreneurship using the sources below:


Social Enterprise UK

Social Enterprise Mark