Social enterprises trade to tackle social problems, improve communities, people's life chances, or the environment. They make their money from selling goods and services in the open market, but they reinvest their profits back into the business or the local community.
The term 'social enterprise' came about from recognition that in the UK and across the world, there were organisations using the power of business to bring about social and environmental change without a single term to unite them.
Social enterprises, like any other businesses, sell goods or services and need to make a financial profit. They differ from mainstream businesses however, in that they are primarily driven by Social and/or Environmental objectives and their profits are principally reinvested in the work of the enterprise or the local community.
The number of 'not-for-private-profits' in the UK is increasing rapidly and it is estimated that at least 1 in every 5 business start-ups has a primarily social or environmental purpose.
Social enterprises operate in just about every industry including farming, renewable energy, retailing, education, manufacturing and providing health care. They employ millions of people across the globe.