Social enterprises (SE) in EU represent 2 million enterprises (10% of all European businesses) and employ over 11 million employees (the equivalent of 6% of the working population of the EU). SE are present in almost every sector of the economy, such as banking, insurance, agriculture, craft, commercial services, health and social services etc. In their majority SE are from the SMEs category. The main difference is that SE are characterised by a strong personal involvement of its members in the management of the company and the absence of seeking profits in order to remunerate shareholders capital. SEs are set up to fulfil social needs, generate employment, tackle poverty, encourage local economic development, promote citizen participation in policy-making processes, integrate disadvantaged groups into the labour market, innovate production and provision of goods and services, and yield social added value.
In Commission's enterprise policy is pointed that ”The so-called Social Economy, including cooperatives, mutual societies, foundations and social enterprises, provides a wide range of products and services across Europe and generates millions of jobs”. SE are part of this policy aiming at promoting enterprises, in general and more specifically SMEs, independently of their business form. The actions foreseen in the Small Business Act for Europe, also benefit SE to face the challenges arising out of globalisation, rapid technological change and global economic downturn.
In order to be able to respond to the changing global economic environment, those enterprises which look to the future and which plan strategically have a competitive advantage over their competitors. Strategic planning is considered one of the most important indicators for innovation and development processes, balanced growth and strengthening of a company’s profile.