Social Enterprise


What is a Social Enterprise?

A social enterprise is a business that operates with a social and/or environmental purpose. It possesses a clear understanding of its social objectives – the impact it aims to create, the people it seeks to support, and the methods it will employ.

Unlike a traditional business that prioritises profits for shareholders, a social enterprise utilises business practices to accomplish socially beneficial goals; it often still generates a profit but responsibly reinvests it back into its social objectives. Such enterprises can take the form of community interest companies, hold charitable status, or be a community benefit society or credit union.

The majority of a social enterprise’s income is derived from selling goods or services, and it adheres to strict guidelines on profit allocation, reinvesting earnings to further its social aims.

Social enterprises are innovative, independent businesses dedicated to fulfilling a specific social and/or environmental mission. Their profits are reinvested into their mission. Social enterprise represents a dynamic, ethical, and more sustainable approach to business. In Scotland alone, there are over 6,000 social enterprises, contributing more than £2.3 billion to the economy and supporting over 88,000 jobs.

What We Do

VSGWL assists in the creation or development of your social enterprise by helping you to:

  • Grasp the fundamental principles
  • Choose the most suitable structure, establish it, and commence operations
  • Assess whether your group could function as a social enterprise
  • Develop plans that ensure best practices, sustainability, and effective outcomes
  • Offer funding information and updates via our website and social media channels
  • Organise networking events that connect Social Enterprise organisations and individuals
  • Support Local Authorities, NHS procurement, and Community Benefits initiatives

VSGWL collaborates extensively with other local and national partners to provide comprehensive support for social enterprises.

Find funding for your group, project or social enterprise using our free funding finder tool. Updated fortnightly from small grants to big projects, we can help you track down the funding you need to make a difference in your community.

Funding Search Tool

Whether you are just getting started and looking for some information on that first step, or thinking about the future and growing and developing your organisation, or perhaps even dissolving an existing organisation, the Information Resource kit is a great place to start. There are 7 information sections; each with several sub-sections with PDF fact sheets available for download.

Good Governance Resource Kit

VSGWL Resource Bank provides access to templates, guides, weblinks and contact details to support your organisation.

Resource Bank

Accelerate is a support programme for the Third Sector and community organisations. Support is FREE and aims to help groups and organisations become more sustainable and enterprising. 


Business Gateway

Start up and growth help is available for any local company – this includes social enterprises. VSGWL works closely with Business Gateway West Lothian. They offer support, information  and training on a wide range of areas

Community Enterprise

Start up and growth help is available for any local company – this includes social enterprises. VSGWL works closely with Business Gateway West Lothian. They offer support, information  and training on a wide range of areas

FirstPort support start-up social entrepreneurs in Scotland to bring forward their ideas and make them happen, transforming lives, communities and the economy. 


Information on choosing a business structure and setting up a Social Enterprise.



Just Enterprise
Just Enterprise, a programme funded by the Scottish Government for the Third Sector in Scotland, offers a dedicated network of advisors who provide comprehensive support, training, and information necessary for starting, developing, expanding, and leading social enterprises. 

Scottish Enterprise
Scottish Enterprise is Scotland's national economic development agency, they facilitate business innovation and scaling to drive transformation within Scotland's economy. 

Social Enterprise Scotland

Social Enterprise Scotland is the collective and campaigning voice of social enterprise, and provides access to Scotland’s social enterprise community. They are an independent membership led organisation that works to raise the profile of social enterprise, and represent members’ interests at a national policy level. They work to bring together all the relevant information and different aspects of the social enterprise com.

Social Enterprise Academy

Since 2004, the Social Enterprise Academy has been providing learning and development opportunities for people and organisations enabling social change in Scotland and more recently the rest of the UK as well. Using social franchising and impact partnerships, they offer learning programmes in communities worldwide.  Their work internationally supports the mutual exchange of global best practice in leadership and social entrepreneurship.

Other Useful links


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