Promoting the social economy and social enterprises

The social economy is proof that it IS possible to conduct business in a way that puts people and the environment before profit.

The social economy and social enterprises contribute to the social and professional inclusion of people in vulnerable situations, and provide services – including social and green services – for the benefit of the community. In other words, social enterprises, while selling products and services on the market, are committed to producing a positive social impact.

Some social economy organisations support the social inclusion and integration into the labour market of people who face discrimination or are at risk of social exclusion, such as migrant women and disabled people. These organisations are known as work integration social enterprises (or WISE).

Other social economy organisations may provide services of general interest, including health, employment, education and housing.

Social enterprises include some social economy organisations and others actors that prioritise social objectives over profit-making. According to the EU Social Business Initiative, an organisation must meet three requirements to be classed as a social enterprise:

  1. The social or societal objective of the enterprise is the basis for its activities, rather than profit.
  2. The majority of profits are reinvested back into the enterprise to support its work.
  3. The enterprise’s organisation and ownership is participatory and democratic.

EU Member States are increasingly pointing to social economy enterprises as positive examples of how to do business in a socially responsible way.

Good practices

To find out more about the work of social economy enterprises at local level, a delegation of Social Platform members visited Madrid in Spain to learn what works and what doesn’t – and how the EU can support great activities being run on the ground.

Read the full report of our fact-finding visit here, and read our blog post here.

Many of our members have national members and partners engaged in projects that promote the well-being of people through the social economy. Read more about some of them here: