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Social enterprise: through the eyes of the consumer (prepared for the National Consumer Council)

Bob Allan (Management consultant working with social enterprises)

Social Enterprise Journal

ISSN: 1750-8614

Article publication date: 1 March 2005




To apply a consumer‐based approach to the study of the underlying concepts involved in social enterprises.


The report aimed to examine social enterprises from the consumer’s point of view and address the question of how social enterprise can make its case for consumer support. Pays particular attention to market segmentation, including: the ethical marketplace; under‐served markets; companies; public sector; voluntary sector; and consumer agents.


It is suggested that there are three schools of thought on how social enterprises should be promoted: the first focusing on social enterprises as “ethical businesses”, with the term used as an umbrella term for a wide range of firms practising corporate social responsibility (CSR); the second emphasising the role of social enterprise in trading for a social purpose; and the third focusing on social ownership.

Research limitations/implications

Future research may be directed towards further investigating the market analysis and testing of the concept, identifying the core brand and value proposition of a label, and identifying business plan models for viable growth, including its impact on social enterprise development and growth.


Provides a valuable contribution to the social enterprise literature which tends not to take a consumerist viewpoint.



Allan, B. (2005), "Social enterprise: through the eyes of the consumer (prepared for the National Consumer Council)", Social Enterprise Journal, Vol. 1 No. 1, pp. 57-77.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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