The community wood recycling enterprises we help found and support are set up as not-for-profit businesses – often given the label of being social enterprises.
A Social Enterprise has been defined by the UK government as:
“a business or service with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners.”
Community wood recyclers have both environmental and social objectives; we want to do our bit to create a more sustainable society by helping to reduce waste and save resources. We also work for a bit of social justice by helping people; we create work for those having difficulties finding employment – so they can build their confidence and self-esteem and build useful transferable work skills.
Of course, we operate like businesses (because we like the idea of having our future in our own hands rather than being decided by the stroke of a funder’s pen), so we do still need to think about the “bottom line” too, and that’s the beauty of social enterprise; it’s focussed on delivering outcomes that are beneficial to society, whilst recognising that the best way of achieving those outcomes is by being financially self-reliant.
Many social enterprises (including most of the CWR network) are legally classed as companies limited by guarantee, which means that unlike most ‘normal’ businesses (which are limited by shares) there are no shareholders. However, the UK government has introduced a new class, Community Interest Company (‘CIC’), regulated by a separate body, The Office of the Regulator of Community Interest Companies, specifically aimed at social enterprises and giving them a legal status tailored to the niche. Several of the newer CWR enterprises are CICs.
An interesting article by Jonathan Bland, former Chief Executive of SEC on what makes entrepreneurs want to start a Social Enterprise can be found here.