social enterprises

One of the trends in the business world today is corporate social responsibility. In 2018, this trend saw an increase in its movement. Many believe companies that do not consider social responsibility as part of their core will surely suffer. For 2019, expect social enterprises to increase in number. 

What are Social Enterprises?

Social enterprises are a commercial organisation that has specific objectives that serve their primary purpose. These organisations seek to increase their profit whilst maximising their contributions to society and the environment. In short, they use the profit they earn to fund social programs that echo their brand. 

The idea of social enterprises began in the UK during the late 1970s. The concept was an answer to the growing traditional commercial enterprise at that time. 

Most of these enterprises operate between the private and volunteer sectors. They are responsible for creating a balance in activities that provide financial benefits whilst achieving social goals, which may include job training or provision of housing for low-income families. 

Source of Funding

Social obligations need funding, and these enterprises get these from making a profit from their business. It can be through the selling of goods or providing services. Some funding may also come from grants. Social enterprises operate differently from a regular company because their main goal is not to maximise profit.

Social Enterprises vs Charitable Institutions

That said, profit still plays a crucial role to maintain the company’s sustainability. This sustainable profit is what differentiates social enterprises from a charitable institution. Charitable institutions heavily rely on outside funding or grants to help them achieve their social mission. Social enterprises, on the other hand, manage their operations to earn a profit. This profit will then fund their social missions, instead of paying out dividends to its shareholders.

Social organisations are highly participatory in which stakeholders are encouraged to become involved actively in company operations. These organisations often have only a few paid employees, whereas charitable institutions mainly have volunteers. 

A charity must be compliant with the Charity Law, which ensures that the institution remains independent from the trustees. Social enterprises, on the other hand, is similar to setting up a limited company, a cooperative, a sole proprietorship, or a partnership. They must include provisions of how they plan to reinvest profits into doing good.

It is also not unusual to learn that most of the employees working for a social enterprise to come from different backgrounds. Many organisations prioritise employing individuals who come from at-risk sectors of the community, such as marginalised groups. 

Social Enterprise vs Social Entrepreneurship

Social enterprises are also different from social entrepreneurship. Both of them fulfil gaps in the market whilst aiming for a sustainable profit, and social entrepreneurship goes beyond just making a profit. They measure its business performance against the positive impact on society, may it be cultural, environmental, or social.

Examples of Social Enterprises

TOMS Shoes

Toms Shoes started TOMS: One for One. With every pair of shoes bought will donate another pair to a child in need. These shoes will allow them to play and go to school and improve their overall health and access to education. Through this, TOMS gave more than 50 million pairs of shoes. 


Baron Fig is known for producing top-quality notebooks that appeal to most creative professionals and hobbyists. The company is aware of the environmental impact of paper production. Thus, they committed to planting a tree for every notebook they sell. To date, the company planted more than 52,000 trees in over 30 countries. 


State Bags wanted to address the needs of American children who live with challenging circumstances. Each State bag sold, the company will hand-deliver a backpack containing tools for success to an American child in need. 


Medical professionals who serve in needy areas do not have access to necessary medical supplies and uniforms. FIGS will send a set of scrubs for every one they sell. The company provided over 75,000 scrubs worldwide. 

One World Football Project

Developing areas often have poor playing conditions and materials. At One World Football Project, they created a durable football tough enough to be used even in the roughest of landscapes. For every football sold, the company will donate a second ball to organisations that work with youth in disadvantaged communities. To date, the social enterprise changed more than 45 million lives. 

Warby Parker

Warby Parker created a social enterprise that will address the growing challenge of providing eyewear to millions of people who do not have access to quality eyewear. For each pair of glasses they sell, the company will donate the same amount of money to source the eyeglasses to a non-profit organisation. These organisations would then train people from developing countries to give basic eye exams and sell glasses to the communities at an affordable price.

Trinity Oaks: Trees for the Future

Trees for the Future believes the great importance of trees to the environment. They focus on tropical locations around the world where trees would have a significant impact on the environment and where deforestation rates are alarming. To achieve this, the company will plant a tree for every bottle of Trinity Oaks wine they sell. Since its inception in 1989, Trees for the Future helped more than 1 million people in communities in Asia, Latin America, and Africa by planting more than 80 million trees. 

Blanket America

Domestic poverty is an issue often overlooked in the US. Blanket America addressed this by providing a blanket to a person in need for every blanket they sell. They help a poor families as they increase social awareness. The company donated hundreds of thousands of blankets across the country since it started its operations. 

Doing good should be at the core of every business if they truly want to become sustainable. Including corporate social responsibility would impact a business in more ways than one. Social enterprises can exist in every corporate business. Creative entrepreneurs can change the world by introducing innovative social business models like the ones mentioned above. 

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