Social entrepreneurship: bridging the gap between business and social change


Social entrepreneurship has been on the rise for several decades now. With the growing need for solutions to social and environmental issues, social entrepreneurship provides a unique approach that combines business principles with social goals. In this blog post, we will explore the history of social entrepreneurship, the largest and most influential social enterprises, what products and services they offer, and define social entrepreneurship.

What is social entrepreneurship?

Social entrepreneurship is the practice of using business principles to create positive social or environmental impact while also generating revenue and making a profit. Unlike traditional businesses, which prioritize profit maximization for their owners or shareholders, social enterprises prioritize creating social impact. They reinvest their profits back into their mission, rather than distributing them to shareholders or owners.

History of social entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneurship has been around for centuries. In the 18th and 19th centuries, philanthropists and social reformers began to use business principles to address social issues. One of the earliest examples of social entrepreneurship was the Cooperative Movement in the UK, which empowered workers by providing access to affordable goods and services.

In the 20th century, social entrepreneurship became global as development organizations and charities addressed poverty and social inequality in developing countries. This led to innovative business models such as microfinance institutions, fair trade organizations, and community-based cooperatives. In recent decades, globalization brought increased attention to social issues, and a new generation of social entrepreneurs emerged, using business principles and innovation to create sustainable solutions.

Products and services offered by social enterprises

Social enterprises offer a wide range of products and services that create social or environmental impact while also generating revenue. Fair trade companies sell ethically-made products, while eco-friendly companies focus on reducing the environmental impact of their products. Community development corporations provide services such as job training, health services, or affordable housing. Education-focused social enterprises provide programs that help people develop new skills or gain access to educational opportunities. Renewable energy companies offer products that help reduce carbon emissions and promote sustainable energy use. Artisanal and handcrafted product companies work with local artisans to produce high-quality, handcrafted products, preserving traditional cultural practices, and supporting local economies.

Largest and most influential social enterprises

Several social enterprises have become well-known and influential, with operations around the world. Here are just a few examples of the largest and most influential social enterprises, each of which has made a significant impact on communities and society as a whole.

  1. Grameen Bank – A microfinance institution in Bangladesh that provides small loans to people living in poverty. Since its founding in 1983, Grameen Bank has provided loans to over 9 million borrowers, 97% of whom are women. In 2019, Grameen Bank’s outstanding loan portfolio was worth over $1.5 billion.
  2. The Body Shop – A cosmetics company that uses ethically sourced ingredients and has a strong commitment to sustainability. The Body Shop operates over 3,000 stores in 70 countries and has a revenue of over $1.4 billion. The company has also been recognized for its efforts to promote sustainable business practices and its commitment to social justice issues.
  3. Patagonia – A clothing company that focuses on environmental sustainability and social responsibility. Patagonia has a revenue of over $1 billion and has been recognized for its efforts to promote sustainable business practices, including using recycled materials in its products and reducing waste in its supply chain.
  4. TOMS – A shoe company that donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair of shoes purchased. Since its founding in 2006, TOMS has donated over 100 million pairs of shoes to children in need in over 70 countries. The company has also expanded its impact to include other products, such as eyewear and coffee, and has a revenue of over $500 million.
  5. BRAC – A development organization based in Bangladesh that operates a wide range of programs, including microfinance, healthcare, and education. BRAC has over 110,000 employees and serves over 110 million people in 11 countries. The organization has been recognized for its efforts to reduce poverty and improve the lives of people living in the most marginalized communities.


Social entrepreneurship is a rapidly growing movement that is creating positive social and environmental impact while also generating revenue and making a profit. Through a long and complex history that spans centuries and continents, social entrepreneurship has evolved into a powerful force for social and environmental change. The largest and most influential social enterprises around the world are making significant impacts on communities and society as a whole. By promoting and supporting social entrepreneurship, we can create a more just and sustainable world for all. Social entrepreneurship has become an essential tool for addressing some of the world’s most pressing social and environmental issues, and its significance will only continue to grow in the years to come.

Join the thriving social entrepreneurship ecosystem in Estonia

Are you looking for a supportive environment to establish your social enterprise? Look no further than Estonia! Our country has a thriving ecosystem for social entrepreneurs, and we invite you to take advantage of all that we have to offer.

Estonia provides a supportive business environment with a strong legal framework, low bureaucracy, and a tech-savvy culture. Our country is a perfect location for entrepreneurs who are looking to create positive social and environmental impact while also generating revenue and creating sustainable solutions.

By establishing your social enterprise in Estonia, you can tap into our supportive ecosystem, which will help you grow and achieve your social and environmental goals.

Join us in creating positive social and environmental impact!

Disclaimer: This article provides general information, which may or may not be correct, complete or current at the time of reading. No recipients of content from this site should act on the basis of content of the article without seeking appropriate legal advice or other professional counselling.

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