Your Questions Answered!

A social enterprise is a business that exists to solve a social, environmental or cultural issue in our society.  It achieves this by selling a product or service to generate the revenue required to solve that particular issue.  Whilst there is no legal model of social enterprise in Australia, they operate using a wide variety of business models.

What is social enterprise?

How is social enterprise different from a business?

A social enterprise is a business that prioritises profit at the same level as its purpose to positively impact social and environmental outcomes.


How is social enterprise different from a charity?

Most charities are entirely reliant on grants that often have short funding timeframes. A social enterprise may not seek any grants, and usually gets its funding like any other business – through revenue and profits. The revenue and profits are used to ensure the social and environmental mission is achieved.

Is social enterprise just another form of privatisation?
“No – it’s a type of organisation that cuts through the dichotomy of private business is “for profit” and public organisation is “State funded”. It blends the best of each and make a stronger hybrid model that is innovative, consumer centric, competitive, and caring.

There will always be a need for government services. But there are many situations where a social enterprise can step in and either help to alleviate the burden on the government or just complement government services. In fact, many social enterprise founders have come from public or community service, having identified opportunities to further support positive impacts with new ways of doing business to complement existing services.

How is social enterprise different from an ethical/responsible business?
Many businesses might be ethical or impactful as a by-product, or by accident, but really have profit growth for their shareholders and owners as the primary reason for being. A social enterprise is a step beyond ethical or responsible businesses by building purpose and social impact into the DNA of everything they do. They are intentionally designed to ensure there is no trade off between their profit and their purpose.

How do social enterprises save govt money?
Governments are unable fix all the problems in our communities such as homelessness, education, health, and other social services for our most vulnerable, or sustainability in our food system and the environment. Furthermore, governments cannot create wellbeing or belonging.

In comparison, social enterprises break down the idea that only government is responsible for complex and wicked social and environmental challenges. Social enterprises often have some of the biggest social and environmental challenges as their primary reason for being. By building social impact into their business models, social enterprises can remove the onus on Govt to solve all the problems. This encourages new ideas, business models and entrepreneurs to take on the big challenges that impact our society and ecosystems.

Why should I buy from a social enterprise?
Your money goes further when you choose products and services from social enterprises that create positive social and environmental impact. You will also feel better knowing that every purchase helps families and local communities, and your purchases align with your personal values.

Does social enterprise only support impacts in Australia/locally?
Social enterprises can be as varied in their model and impact as any other business or not-for-profit. Many social enterprises have a very specific focus on their local area and community while others support social and environmental impacts all over the world.

Are social enterprises actually a viable business model?
Just like traditional businesses, well-structured and successful social enterprises have a sustainable, profitable business model. They just have impact at the heart of why they do what they do. They are profitable, create meaningful jobs and do great things for society and our environment.

Do you have to be a not for profit?
No, a social enterprise can be either for profit, not-for-profit. It can be a cooperative or employee owned, or listed on the stock exchange, and everywhere in between. The most important thing is not its structure, but the fact that it exists and stands for its social impact and financial sustainability.

Do Social Enterprises have to be small?
No, size doesn’t matter.

Are co-ops social enterprises?
Some are and some aren’t.. co-ops can be social enterprise if they have a clear mission to support social and environmental outcomes.

In the past, most co-ops had 7 guiding principles including: open membership, democratic member control, member participation, independence, training, cooperation, and community concern. Co-ops that operate on these 7 principles are some of the oldest examples of social enterprises.

Does social enterprise produce inferior products/services?
No. In fact, in many cases social enterprises provide better products! Social enterprises produce products and services that meet a customer’s need for value like any company. Some are targeted at budget conscious purchasers, and others aim for a boutique limited range. In most cases social enterprises use better input materials and suppliers because they are aiming for sustainable and ethical supply chains.

Is it possible to be profitable and have a genuine impact?
Social enterprises embrace a new form of capitalism in which ALL stakeholders are equally important. This is fundamentally different to companies and businesses in the old economy where shareholders are the only stakeholders that matter, and where profit comes before employees, governance, community, and environment.

Where can I get support for my social enterprise or transitioning my business to be a social enterprise?
WASEC can help connect with other members of the social enterprise community, we will also be listing a range of resources on our website in due time.

How do I know a social enterprise is credible?
Look for a company’s public statement of support for their social and environmental impact. WASEC is looking into certification to make this easy for you.

How do I find a social enterprise?
Get in touch with WASEC and keep an eye out for our directory coming soon.

Why do we need WASEC?
Social enterprises are a new and rapidly growing sector driven by a need and demand for far more sustainable businesses than what we have in WA today. These social enterprises operate in so very many sectors, from food systems, to health, education, retail, tourism and culture and the arts. Just like the traditional business sectors have a representative body which supports, nurtures, promotes and grows these ‘old economy’ businesses, WASEC exists to grow the next economy of inclusive, highly impactful, and job-creating social enterprises in WA.

How do I become a member and what do I get?
Membership applications are now open here. As a WASEC member you are connected to a larger group banded together to produce positive results for social enterprise in WA, with opportunities to network with social enterprise professionals and associates.  As we only accept Social Enterprise Membership applications from organisations that meet basic criteria to qualify as social enterprises, Social Enterprise Membership means you are part of an inclusive business movement that stands for integrity and intentional impact. 

Do I have to be a social enterprise to join WASEC?
Social enterprises will make up WASEC’s core voting membership, however the social enterprise community includes a range of other organisations and individuals who have supported the sector’s growth. WASEC membership will include options for such groups.

Join us as a Social Enterprise or Associate member