The Government defines social enterprises as "businesses with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners."
As with all businesses, they compete to deliver goods and services. The difference is that social and environmental purposes are at the very heart of what they do, and the profits they make are reinvested towards achieving those purposes. Well known examples of social enterprises include the Eden Project and The Phone Co-op.
Social enterprises operate in almost every industry in the UK, from health and social care to renewable energy, from retail to recycling, from employment to sport, from housing to education. Whatever they do, they do it differently from typical business, because they are driven by a social and environmental mission, and they are focused on the community they serve. In a recent survey into social enterprise, 45% of respondents said that 'putting something back into the community' was their reason for setting up a social enterprise.