What is Social Enterprise?
Social enterprise is an exciting, ethical and sustainable way of doing business which benefits the community, society or environment.
Social enterprises are businesses which trade but reinvest their profits into their social or environmental aims. Some may also achieve their aims by the way in which they run their business, for example by training and employing people who find it difficult to get a job
Social enterprises trade in many markets selling high quality goods and services directly to individual consumers (see BTGS) and to government and local authorities as well as other businesses. Social enterprises aim to make a profit just like any other business however their profits are always reinvested back into their social and/or environmental purpose.
Edinburgh Social Enterprise Network uses the criteria for social enterprise set out in the Voluntary code of practice for Social Enterprise in Scotland (the SE Code www.se-code.net) and all our full members meet these criteria. We recognise that there may be individuals and organisations or businesses who may be on a journey towards starting or becoming a social enterprise and our membership categories include associate and affiliate memberships to allow these individuals and organisations to engage with us and our other members.
How do I tell if an organisation is a Social Enterprise
There is no legal definition for social enterprise however social enterprise shouldn't be confused with businesses which simply operate in an ethical way or charities which don't trade or trade very little.
Public sector arms-length companies, ALEO’s (which are normally still largely within the control of local authorities) are also not social enterprises. Scotland does have well defined guidance as to what a social enterprise should look like and how it should behave or operate imbedded in the SE code (www.se-code.net).
If you are checking if a business is a social enterprise and a member of our network you'll find them in our directory at the bottom of the page. Retailers who are members of the network will have a Doogie sticker somewhere in their window to identify themselves.
Social Enterprise Strategies
We have had a Social Enterprise Strategy since 2013, which is produced in partnership with social enterprises and stakeholders and links with the Edinburgh Compact. The current strategy for Edinburgh can be found here: A Social Enterprise
Strategy for Edinburgh 2013 - 2018 Enabling Enterprise.
In December 2016, the Scottish Government launched the first national Social Enterprise Strategy for Scotland.
This ten-year, national social enterprise strategy sets out shared ambitions for social enterprise in Scotland, jointly developed with the sector. It provides a framework for action over the next decade.
Social enterprise models inclusive growth and this strategy will support the Scottish Government's aim of sustainable economic growth, tackling inequalities and building a fairer Scotland.
This strategy will build on the supportive ecosystem, developed over the previous decade, and will cement Scotland's reputation as world-leading and the best place to start and grow a social enterprise.
The strategy focuses on three main priorities:
1) Stimulating social enterprise
2) Developing stronger organisations
3) Realising market opportunities
These will be developed into a series of action plans spanning the decade, the first of which will be published in 2017.
Measuring the impact of Social Enterprise
We need to ensure we can back up our claim that Social Enterprise makes a real and lasting difference to people, communities, economies or the environment.
Every 2 years Edinburgh Social Enterprise undertakes a census of social enterprises in Edinburgh. The census tells us how many paid jobs and volunteering opportunities there are across social enterprises in Edinburgh as well as the total income these organisations have generated and reinvested into community good. The last census can be found here: Celebrating the Good Stuff 2015. The main findings in 2015 were;
- There are at least 200 social enterprises in Edinburgh, up from 120 in 2013
- Almost 8000 people are involved in the running of social enterprises in the city, of which 1220 are staff, 650 are trainees and over 6,000 are volunteers
- The sector has a turnover of £120 million a year, up from £44 million in 2013
- 94% of the sector’s income is generated from trading, up from 75% in 2015
- Consumers are the main market for 58% of social enterprises up from 41% in 2013
- 73% are independent organisations and not trading arms of large charities, up from 60% in 2013
The last Scotland wide census, also done in 2015, can be found here and gives similar information for national social enterprise activity.
Edinburgh Social Enterprise works with partners to help members measure the difference they are making and there are a number of tools available to help with this, including;
Read how some of our members did it! Find out more