What is a social enterprise?

A social enterprise is a business that trades for a social purpose, with the aim of addressing social problems in the community. Most of their income comes from trade, and the surpluses are reinvested in a social purpose to support a social mission.

This mission may encompass providing individuals with employment opportunities, training or non-formal education for those excluded from the mainstream economy, or more broadly addressing social, cultural, economic, and environmental issues.

There are an estimated 20,000 social enterprises in Australia, operating in a wide range of industries, including health and social assistance, transport and storage, manufacturing, accommodation and food services. Some are owned or run by not-for-profit organisations, while others are the projects of social entrepreneurs.

According to Social Traders:

  • 37 per cent of all income in the not-for-profit sector is earned through trading activity, equating to 22 billion per annum
  • social enterprise activity constitutes two to three per cent of gross domestic profit (GDP)
  • social enterprise activity has grown at a rate of 37 per cent over the past five years.

Get a better understanding of the social enterprise sector

Workshop: Social enterprise for public practitioners.
Podcast: How members and social enterprise can mutually benefit by working together.

Capacity International is providing a number of resources relevant to the sector, exclusively for CPA Australia members.

About Capacity International

Capacity International’s vision is to improve and enhance the social and business impact of social enterprises and other not-for-profit organisations by supporting and facilitating their capacity development.

Since 1997, Capacity International, an independent boutique consultancy, has worked in partnership with government, non-government organisations (NGOs) and business in Australia and internationally

Capacity International offers a flexible, tailored learning and development product designed to augment and enhance existing courses, which of necessity are of a more generic nature. The areas covered include particular areas of interest to social enterprises such as governance, measurement and evaluation, and practical business issues faced by social enterprises.

Find out more