• A Social Firm is a business created for the employment of people with a disability or disadvantage in the labour market;
  • It is a business which uses its market-oriented production of goods and services to pursue its social mission (more than 50% of its income should be derived from trade);
  • A significant number (minimum 30%) of its employees will be people with a disability or other disadvantage in the labour market;
  • Every worker is paid a market rate wage or salary appropriate to the work, whatever their productive capacity;
  • Work opportunities should be equal between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged employees. All employees have the same employment rights and obligations.

Social enterprise

  • is an operator in the social economy whose main objective is to have a social impact rather than make a profit for their owners or shareholders. It is managed in an open and responsible manner and, in particular, involves employees, consumers and stakeholders affected by its commercial activities.

The European Commission uses the term ‘social enterprise’ to cover the following types of business:

  • those for who the social or societal objective of the common good is the reason for the commercial activity, often in the form of a high level of social innovation
  • those whose profits are mainly reinvested to achieve this social objective
  • those where the method of organisation or the ownership system reflects the enterprise’s mission, using democratic or participatory principles or focusing on social justice

Social Firms

  • One type of social enterprise, social enterprise can be used as an umbrella term. Business that trades for social purpose.
  • A business that has been set up specifically to improve the quality of life as well as the social and economic integration of disabled people through appropriate employment opportunities. The aims of SF include empowerment of the individual.
  • the British term for a social enterprise, a business created to employ people who have a disability or are otherwise disadvantaged in the labour market. Its commercial and production activities are undertaken in the context of a social mission, with profits going back into the company to further its goals. A significant number of the employees of social firms will be people with a disability or disadvantage.

WISE – Work Integration Social Enterprise (according to EMES)

  • A type of social enterprise
  • autonomous economic entities whose main objective is the professional integration – within the WISE itself or in mainstream enterprises – of people experiencing serious difficulties in the labour market. This integration is achieved through productive activity and tailored follow-up, or through training to qualify the workers.


Research of the last thirty years (we thank Ulla Carin very much for this part of investigation)
Important research and practical development of work for disabled and disadvantaged persons has happened in European countries and the term Social Enterprise seems to spread more and more as a substitute for Social Firm:

From 1996- 1999 researchers in 15 European countries formed the Emes Research Network and J. Defourny and C. Borzaga published the very first definition of Social Enterprise, followed by the Perse project 2006 , M. Nyssens  & A. Platteau, which focused on Work Integration Social Enterprise (WISEs). In 2008 C. Borzaga, G. Galera & R. Nogales reported on problems rising in Eastern Europe after the end of the cold war.

More details HERE:

CEFEC WG 2 Ulla – explaining S.E. development


European Action Plan for the Social Economy – CEFEC Position Paper, from April 2021

Document developed by Mrs. Felicitas Kresimon

Position Paper CEFEC Action Plan SE