Accelerating the growth of Ontario’s social enterprise sector

Social enterprises use business strategies to achieve a social or environmental impact. While generating revenues from the sale of goods and services, social enterprises also expressly intend to create positive outcomes, and they measure their results. As their business grows, the social impact grows.

Across the province, social enterprises are reducing poverty, protecting the environment, and building stronger communities – all while creating jobs, growing revenues, and attracting investment capital. Ontario is home to approximately 10,000 social enterprises, businesses that are building solutions in the fields of inclusive employment, education, health, and environmental sustainability.

To accelerate the growth of the social enterprise sector, we are making significant commitments in 3 key areas:

  1. Equipping social enterprises with solid business fundamentals. Building a strong foundation to serve the communities of today and tomorrow.
  2. Connecting social enterprises to markets and capital to grow and scale. Unlocking new markets and capital to help maximize their potential.
  3. Demonstrating the value of social enterprise and social finance. Promoting their potential to investors, government, and communities.

Ontario will invest more than $6 million in the first year of this renewed strategy.

Social enterprises help Ontario attract and retain top talent, mobilize capital for community benefit, and satisfy demand for socially responsible goods. Ontario’s social enterprise strategy will leverage impact investment capital and the province’s existing entrepreneurship infrastructure to catalyze the development of sustainable and scalable social enterprises, creating more jobs for Ontario.

Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development and Growth

Building on Success

Ontario’s initial 3-year Social Enterprise Strategy achieved results. The government:

  • Invested $4 million in the Social Enterprise Demonstration Fund, creating over 125 jobs and retaining over 65 jobs during its first year, and leveraging over $6 million in additional investment into social enterprises
  • Launched the $4-Million Rate Drop Rebate Program, which is expected to help up to 1,100 people facing barriers to employment find jobs and support up to 550 businesses in accessing discounted rates on financial products
  • Invested in social entrepreneurs through the Ontario Social Impact Voucher Pilot, which provided $3,000 training and mentorship vouchers to 125 social entrepreneurs
  • Selected 2 leading Social Impact Bond ideas for further exploration and development, following a public call for ideas which garnered submissions from 79 organizations and involved input from a number of ministries

Ontario is committed to supporting a thriving marketplace of sustainable and scalable social enterprises that drive economic development while creating social and environmental impact. Ontario’s social enterprise strategy will accelerate the growth of this vital sector, positioning the province as a global leader in social enterprise and social finance by 2021.

Equipping social enterprises with solid business fundamentals


  • Increase access to mainstream entrepreneurship and business supports
  • Integrate specialized social entrepreneurship supports, such as impact measurement, into mainstream entrepreneurship programs

Feature Initiatives

As a social enterprise that’s been in operation for 20 years, we know the importance of having strong business fundamentals. Social mission or not, successful businesses focus on delivering value for customers, developing strong financials and management as well as driving sales.

Heather Tremain, CEO, Options for Homes

Connecting social enterprises to markets and capital to grow and scale


  • Expand market opportunities for social enterprises through public sector procurement
  • Increase social enterprises’ access to private investment capital

Feature initiatives:

  • Social Enterprise Procurement Action Plan: Increasing the Ontario government’s procurement from social enterprises
  • Social Venture ConneXion: Supporting a platform that connects impact investors with investment-ready social enterprises
  • Social Venture Investment Fund: Designing and structuring a new fund to accelerate the flow of private investment capital to growing social enterprises
  • Removing legislative barriers to impact investing: Consulting on potential legislative amendments

Mission-aligned private investors have played a critical role in helping CoPower scale up. We welcome the province’s efforts to support the mobilization of private capital for investment into social enterprises – businesses tackling critical social and environmental issues, including climate change.

Trish Nixon, Director of Investments, CoPower

Demonstrating the value of social enterprise and social finance


  • Promote the use of impact measurement tools among social enterprises to attract investor, government, and community support
  • Increase the Ontario government’s capacity to develop social enterprise and social finance initiatives

Feature initiatives:

  • Impact Measurement Task Force: Bringing sector leaders together to explore uniform impact measurement standards for social enterprises
  • Centre of Excellence in Social Enterprise and Social Finance: Leveraging social enterprise and social finance as tools to achieve policy objectives
  • Social impact bonds: Piloting one or more Social Impact Bonds in the province to improve social outcomes

Ontario’s social enterprise strategy incorporates the input of over 400 Ontarians – individuals from the non-profit, for-profit and public sectors, social entrepreneurs, academics, and others. They shared their ideas both online and in person during consultations hosted in Toronto, London, Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, Sudbury, and Orillia. Community organizations and sector leaders co-hosted these consultations.

Social Enterprise Examples

Inclusive Employment

Social enterprises such as Building Up, Groupe Convex, CigBins, Options Printing, and Good Foot Delivery create training and employment opportunities for people facing barriers to the labour market.

Building Up trains and employs people facing barriers to the labour market to provide energy-efficient retrofits.


Twenty One Toys, Forward Vision Games, Textbooks for Change, Jump Math, and Future Design School are social enterprises on a mission to improve learning outcomes for people of all ages.

Twenty One Toys designs and manufactures toys that teach 21st century skills, including empathy, failure, creative communication and collaboration.


SolarShare, KARIBU Solar Power, CoPower, and Fresh City Farms are some of the many social enterprises tackling various environmental challenges.

SolarShare develops commercial scale solar energy installations and provides opportunities for everyday Ontarians to invest in a renewable energy future.


Social enterprises such as QoC Health, Eve Medical, Lucky Iron Fish, Plan A Health Care Staffing Solutions, and TranQool are improving health and wellness outcomes for under-served populations.

QoC Health partners with health care providers to develop technology-enabled and patient-centred products and services.

Connect with us

Learn more about how social enterprises are helping to create jobs, attract investment, and build vibrant communities, email the Social Enterprise Branch  or follow us on twitter at @ONEBusinessca.


Source: CCEDNet, Enterprising Change (2015)