Social Enterprises

From the 2018 EPR-EASPD study " on employment models within the social economy and their role in including persons with disabilities into the labour market and society"

Long version of the study can be consulted here. The summary version of the study can be consulted here.

The definition of Social Enterprise from the European Commission;

‘an operator in the social economy whose main objective is to have a social impact rather than make a profit for their [sic] owners or shareholders. It operates by providing goods and services for the market in an entrepreneurial and innovative fashion and uses its profits primarily to achieve social objectives. It is managed in an open and responsible manner and, in particular, involve [sic] employees, consumers and stakeholders’ [1].

The European Commission groups the activities of social enterprises into four broader categories encompassing the more detailed breakdown in Figure 1 above.

  •          Work integration: training and integration of people with disabilities and unemployed people.
  •          Personal social services: health, well-being and medical care, professional training, education, health services, childcare services, services for elderly people, or aid for disadvantaged people.
  •          Local development of disadvantaged areas: social enterprises in remote rural areas, neighbourhood development/rehabilitation schemes in urban areas, development aid and development cooperation with third countries.
  •          Other: including recycling, environmental protection, sports, arts, culture or historical preservation, science, research and innovation, consumer protection and amateur sports[1].

Beyond the notion that WISEs represent the type of social enterprises that focus on the integration of disadvantaged groups (including persons with disabilities) into the labour market, there is no commonly accepted definition at the EU level.

[1] European Commission, DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs. Social enterprises. Available at:,923,745ectors/social-economy/enterprises_en

[1] Communication from the European Commission, Social Business Initiative, COM/2011/0682 final of 25/10/2011)

Other resources:

2020: EU level synthesis report Social Enterprises and their ecosystems in Europe It collates and interprets the key findings from 35 country reports covering EU Member States and other countries participating in the EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation.

The report brings together a comprehensive picture of different country traditions and key challenges across Europe, highlighting that public support measures need to reflect the different types of social enterprises and their needs.

The research was coordinated by the EURICSE research centre and the EMES network and involved more than 70 individual academics and the institutions they represent.