Social enterprise is a business model which offers the prospect of a greater equity of economic power and a more sustainable society – by combining market efficiency with social and environmental justice.

Social enterprises are businesses trading for social and environmental purposes.

Many commercial businesses would consider themselves to have social objectives, but social enterprises are distinctive because their social or environmental purpose is central to what they do. Rather than maximising shareholder value their main aim is to generate profit to further their social and environmental goals.

According to 2005-2007 data from the Annual Survey of Small Business UK, there are approximately 62,000 social enterprises in the UK with a combined turnover of at least £27 billion. Social enterprises account for 5% of all businesses with employees, and contribute £8.4 billion per year to the UK economy.

The social enterprise movement is inclusive and extremely diverse, encompassing organisations such as development trusts, community enterprises, co-operatives, housing associations, social firms and leisure trusts, among others. These businesses are operating across an incredibly wide range of industries and sectors from health and social care, to renewable energy, recycling and fair trade.

Social enterprise is a business model which offers the prospect of a greater equity of economic power and a more sustainable society – by combining market efficiency with social and environmental justice.

Social Enterprise in the North East

There is a rich variety of social enterprise in the North East region that includes many of the organisations and individuals who have pioneered the movement in the UK.

The North East was one of the first regions to set up a strategic social enterprise body and to have a social enterprise action plan adopted by its regional development agency.

A number of new enterprise models for care providers, community facilities, leisure trusts, social firms, development trusts, housing co-operatives, fairtrade businesses and environmental enterprises started in the North East have since been replicated in other regions.

It is very difficult to give an accurate estimate of the number of social enterprises in the North East region. Social enterprises are distributed over a wide range of organisational forms and business activities and there is no easy way of identifying them.

The last regional mapping exercise, conducted for the North East Social Enterprise Partnership in 2007, estimated that there were between 1,000 and 2,000 social enterprises in the region. These ranged from very large enterprises with turnovers of several million pounds to micro enterprises with no paid employees.