About the Code

The Code Social Enterprises is a mechanism to help build trust between social entrepreneurs, consumers and social impact investors. The Code and its affiliated Register for Social Enterprises were initiated by Social Enterprise NL and are now managed by the independent Social Enterprises Code Foundation (website in Dutch). The Code is a living document and is being evaluated and revised as necessary every two to three years.

If a company is included in the Register for Social Enterprises, you can be sure its business practices are socially responsible. Enterprises all need to meet certain criteria for admission to the register (website in Dutch). These criteria aim to ensure compliance with the five principles (more on those below) of the Code. They also include issues such as the size of the company and its legal structure as well as its mission and goals.

The five principles of social enterprises

The Code Social Enterprises is based on five principles that identify what social entrepreneurship stands for and present a guide to how an impact enterprise should operate.

Those five principles are:

1. Mission – guaranteed and measurable
‘Impact first’ should be the guiding principle. What is your mission and how do you expect to achieve your goals?

2. Stakeholders – decision and dialogue
Decide who your stakeholders are – considering your mission – and engage those parties in constant dialogue.

3. Finance – in consultation and careful consideration
Monetary profit is not your main goal and returns to shareholders are restricted.

4. Implementation – registration and reflection
Your enterprise will be registered in the Register of Social Enterprises, and you will actively participate in the social enterprise community.

5. Transparency: active and accessible
You strive for maximum openness with clear, easy to find information about your mission, your impact and your financial structure.

Find more detail on the five principles here.

How does the Code work?

When a social entrepreneur registers for the Code, a Review Board (website in Dutch) will carry out an assessment to ensure the company is genuinely operating as a social enterprise. The members of the Review Board have collective expertise in all aspects of social entrepreneurship and impact enterprises. When they make a positive decision about a company, it will be admitted to the Register of Social Enterprises. Responsibility for implementation of the code then lies with the social enterprise itself. This gives entrepreneurs the freedom and space to incorporate the five principles in their strategies as their company grows. Follow-up assessments take place every two years to check that companies are still fulfilling the criteria of the Code.

The Code sets out seven separate impact areas:

  • Increasing the labour force participation of a vulnerable target group
  • Improving healthcare
  • Increasing social cohesion in districts and neighbourhoods
  • Circular and sustainable production
  • Energy transition
  • Food industry transition
  • International development and fair chains

Support for impact enterprises

As well as the formal reassessment process, the Code Social Enterprises allows for regular peer reviews by fellow entrepreneurs from the Register. These reviews are focused on offering support and advice and exchanging knowledge and best practices. This means that when they join the Register, impact entrepreneurs are also joining a community of peers who are, each in their own way, pursuing the same goal of ‘impact first’.