A social enterprise is a type of business that helps people with low incomes get basic goods and services in a way that is affordable, sustainable, and scalable. Most of the time, they are for-profit, which gives them some market discipline and makes it easier to raise capital, but sometimes they can be set up as non-profits. Basic goods and services are things like electricity, water, and sanitation that are usually provided by public utilities in the developed world.
They also include services like education, health care, finance, and housing. Social enterprises usually have a mission that drives them, and their business models are made so that they can have a positive effect on society and/or the environment. Often, specific impact metrics are used to show and track this intentionality. These things make social enterprises different from companies that only care about making money for their shareholders.
This has led to new types of legal incorporation, like “benefit corporations,” where the mission is built into the company’s goals to avoid a possible conflict between making the most money and making an impact. So, company directors have more freedom to make decisions without putting their duty to shareholders at risk.