What is a social enterprise?

You may have read that Witton Barracks has been reimagined as a community and social enterprise hub. But what exactly is a social enterprise? 

Essentially, social enterprises are businesses for good. 

They operate like any other commercial business but with a key difference— instead of only focusing on making money, they also aim to solve social or environmental issues.

This can take many shapes: from toilet paper companies that donate a portion of their earnings to charity, to hospitality businesses that provide training and jobs for marginalised individuals.

Our friends at Social Traders (an organisation that champions social enterprise procurement) have identified three key characteristics that define a social enterprise.  

  • A clear purpose: Social enterprises have a clear and specific purpose to benefit society, culture, or the environment.
  • Trading for good: They earn a significant portion of their income by selling products or services, just like any other business.
  • Impact first: While they may make profits, their primary focus is on using those profits to fulfill their social or environmental mission, rather than solely for personal gain.


White Box Enterprises, the team behind Witton Barracks, focuses specifically on jobs-focused social enterprises. (You can read more about White Box here).

These businesses are dedicated to creating employment opportunities and career pathways for individuals who face barriers to work. By doing so, they contribute to reducing poverty, promoting social inclusion, and fostering economic development in their communities.

Social enterprises also demonstrate that making money and making a difference don’t have to be separate goals. In fact, they can go hand in hand.

Thanks to the magic of social enterprise, you as a shopper get to buy a product or service and know that your money is making a positive difference in the world.

aerial view of the whole site