What is Social Enterprise?

Social enterprise is about running a business, making a profit, and using that money to create a positive impact.

A social enterprise, just like any business, sells a product or provides a service, employs paid staff, pays its taxes and files accounts. But instead of the profits going to a few individuals, they are used to create social or environmental impact.

Social enterprises in Scotland

Social enterprises are exciting, eclectic and in Scotland there are lots of them (6,025 to be precise*), so chances are you have already bought from one or used their services.  From supermarkets and zero-waste shops, to gardening services and childcare providers, almost any type of business can be a social enterprise. If you are looking for examples and inspiration, head to our Success Stories section and read the stories of some of the individuals we’ve helped to get their social enterprise started.

There is no single legal definition or legal structure for social enterprises (more on that in our Jargon Buster) but in Scotland a business is recognised as a social enterprise if it has an “asset lock”. This means that all the profits the business generates either get re-invested into the business or go to a community of need. 

You can find more resources on the topic of ‘what is social enterprise’ in our Resources Hub.

Do you still have questions?

There is a lot of useful information out there about social enterprises and in Scotland there are many forms of support to help you start one. If, after visiting our Resources and Success Stories sections, you still have questions, pick up the phone or send us an email and we will be happy to help. 

You can also visit the Social Enterprise Scotland website for more in-depth and technical information about social enterprises in Scotland, and you can check out this handy guide from Social Enterprise UK on how to start a social enterprise.

*Social Enterprise in Scotland Census 2019