What is a social enterprise?

Low Carbon Hub is a social enterprise creating community-owned renewable energy installations, but what is a social enterprise? This business model creates change for the better by shifting away from an emphasis on profit above all else, and instead focusing on social and environmental good.

A social enterprise is an organisation whose main goal is promoting social or environmental welfare rather than making or maximising profits. They act as catalysts of change, not just maintaining business-as-usual outcomes, and provide solutions which are financially, socially and environmentally sustainable.

It is not a charity, and it is not just a business. One way of better understanding the concept of a social enterprise is to break it down:

What do we mean by Social?

A business that makes a profit that is dedicated to community benefit rather than profit for shareholders. It engages with the community; it is connected to the needs of wider society. 

What do we mean by Enterprise?

An undertaking which is both bold and complex. Social enterprises are at the forefront of change, using innovation and collaboration to provide creative solutions to wicked problems

Social enterprises are no less effective in their goals than traditional businesses. In fact, they are a rapidly expanding model that is showing the benefits of putting people and the planet first. The difference between traditional business and social enterprise is to do with the mission of an organisation. As Michael Sheen, actor and patron of Social Enterprise UK says, “it’s business, where society profits”.

What does this mean about how Low Carbon Hub operates?

All indicators suggest the effects of the climate crisis are accelerating faster than the worst predictions of a few years ago. We need to apply new, creative models of working and critical thinking to this crisis, and fast. At Low Carbon Hub, we are helping to develop an energy system that is smart, fair, and regenerative. Low Carbon Hub comprises two organisations working in cooperation: our Industrial and Provident Society (IPS) and Community Interest Company (CIC). As a social enterprise run for the benefit of the community, our surplus or assets are used for public good.

The IPS develops a decentralised, locally-owned renewable energy infrastructure for Oxfordshire to put local power in the hands of local people. We do this by developing our own portfolio of renewable energy projects with businesses, schools and public sector partners. The Low Carbon Hub IPS raises the investment and is the owner of these energy generation assets.

The CIC is developing innovative low-carbon energy services and business models for communities to improve our renewable energy infrastructure. A part of the work of the CIC is influencing key stakeholders to create a supportive operating environment for community energy.

We can help support community volunteers through the complex process of setting up a social enterprise, getting the project to investment-readiness, and raising necessary finance. To reach out to our team, email info@lowcarbonhub.org or message our helpdesk