Key facts


Current population of Germany –

Data supplied by the World Bank


Current GDP of Germany –
4,259,934.91 ($ millions)

Data supplied by the World Bank

World Happiness Index

Germany currently ranks  7.034 out of 10.

Since 2002, the World Happiness Report has used statistical analysis to determine the world’s happiest countries. To determine the world’s happiest country, researchers analysed comprehensive Gallup polling data from 149 countries for the past three years, specifically monitoring performance in six particular categories: gross domestic product per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make your own life choices, generosity of the general population, and perceptions of internal and external corruption levels.

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Social Enterprise Data

(Source: ESEM)

German Social Enterprise Monitor

Country Fact sheet: Germany

Read The European Social Enterprise Monitor Report, 2021 – 2022

The European Commission is proud to support this year’s European Social Enterprise Monitor (ESEM), the second edition covering the period 2021- 2022. This report builds on the seminal work of the first ESEM 2020-2021 and has impressively scaled from eight to 21 countries in just one year across the EU and the wider European neighbourhood. It provides key data and insights for policy-makers, investors, support organisations, academia and social entrepreneurs themselves.

Country factsheet: ESEM SEs in Germany

(Source: ESEM)

Perceived Political Support Grade

  • 79.4% perceive national political support for social entrepreneurship to be low, very low or non-existent

Top 3 Business Sectors (UN ISIC)

  • Education (24.8%)
  • Information and communication (19.2%)
  • Human health and social work activities (18.9%)

Company Size (OECD)

  • Micro enterprises 74.9%
  • Small enterprises 15.9%
  • Medium enterprises 7.0%
  • Large enterprises 1.4%

Top 3 UN SDGs

#4 – Quality education (51.8%)
#10 – Reduced inequalities (46.8%)
#3 – Good health and wellbeing (46.5%)

Impact Management & Measurement

  • 61.9% currently measure their social/environmental impact; 34.8% plan to do so
  • 37.7% refer to the UN SDGs in impact reporting; 26.5% plan to do so

Top 3 Beneficiaries (Persons)

  • Children/young individuals in general (37.3%)/li>
  • Women/girls (28.1%)
  • Migrants (25.3%)

Top 3 Sources of External Financing

  • Public financing (47.9%)
  • Private donations (32.9%)
  • Foundation funding (30.9%)

Funding Gap

On average, German ESEM SEs only managed to secure enough funding to meet 64.3% out of 100% of their financing needs in the past 12 months. Gap = 35.7%.

Top 3 Key Barriers

  • Lack of options to finance the organisation once started (44.8%)
  • Too complex public financing (43.7%)
  • Lack of financial options when starting an organisation (43.5%)

Key Stakeholders & Members

EN Members

Social Enterprise Netzwerk Deutschland

Type of organisation: National Network for Social Enterprises/Entrepreneurs
Website –

SEND is the German national network for social enterprises/social entrepreneurs. SEND is driven by the idea to live in a society in which all people benefit from the process. For this reason, they congregate all these actors into one network and give it a voice. SEND focus areas include:

    • Political education and intersectoral education
    • Visibility and awareness raising
    • Networking & communication
    • Greening skills & digital transformation
    • Impact orientation

Center for Social Investment, University of Heidelberg

Type of organisation: University/Research Centre

The Centre for Social Investment develops knowledge and understanding of private action for public benefit, in particular the types, roles and contributions of social investment, philanthropy, civil society, economic institutions in Europe and other parts of the world.

Yunus Social Business

Type of organisation: International Network, Impact Investor

YSB works with both sides, and believes that social businesses and corporations have something to learn from each other. Social businesses have deep experience in harnessing business tools to tackle big challenges like poverty and the climate crisis. Global corporations have the power to multiply the impact of social businesses. YSB began working with corporations that were inspired to integrate social business into their business model – creating the first corporate social businesses

Other Stakeholders


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Universities/Research Centres

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Key Policies

Key Legal and Policy Framework Overview


In Germany there is no legislation or legal form specifically dealings with SEs. Many organisation which might be considered SEs aspire to the “public benefit status” (available to all legal forms), while the associative form is still the most common one. 

The legal forms used in Germany include, but are not limited to, (i) registered associations (eingetragener Verein or e.V.),  (ii) foundations (Stiftungen), (iii) cooperatives (Genossenschaften) and (iv) LLCs.

Traditional associations (2600/2020)

Traditional associations were usually founded to practice ideal activities, but this legal form is now often used by its members for economic activities. They have, however, to split their books into an ideal and an entrepreneurial part. They have to work for the benefit of their members and have to fulfil a common benefit. A distinction can be made between ideological associations which hardly ever engage economically and common-benefit and philanthropic associations which are economically active. Most of them have a public benefit status.

Welfare organisations

Welfare organisations constitute the larges part of the German social economy. They often receive a large part of their budget from the state, which makes them “quasi-public service providers”. However, in the last years they introduced more and more economic activities and therefore are able to contribute their own share to the budget. They must spend all of their earnings to fulfil their social mission. For taxation purposes, they often create social enterprises, providing them with a beneficial status and a good environment.

Operational foundations (1483/1990)

Foundations are very common in Germany and most of them have a public-benefit status. They are mostly active in the fields of social services as well as education.

Cooperatives (2230/2006)

Cooperatives have been established to fight poverty and social exclusion of their members. Nowadays, most of them only follow commercial interests. They only are eligible as social cooperatives if they have a social mission.


There are two different forms of WISE in Germany. The first includes people with disabilities, which means they provide opportunities for people who cannot find a job on the “regular” job market. The second form caters to people with permanent labour market disadvantages. They have to spent all their earnings on their stated social goals.

Limited Liability Company Act (556/2013)

Since 2013 corporations acting under this law can gain the public-benefit status. This enables them to have more freedoms spending their revenues among other things. There is a legal procedure when aspiring the public-benefit status, and they are allowed to use abbreviation “gGmbH”. This status, however, is not a legal form and enterprises have to be re-accredited every third year.

Tax Law (2878/2007)

The tax law regulates the public benefit status (as defined by the LLC act) and introduces strict limits on profit distribution. As public benefit organisations count corporations, which act selfless, charitable or religious and support either society at large or certain groups. Organisations with public benefit status are not allowed to build up assets from their income, only from donations. They also must spend all surplus generated by their activities in a period of two years after. However, the status enables to collect tax-deductible donations and provides them with further tax reductions, e.g. reduced VAT rate.

Cooperative Act (2230/2006)

A revision of the act in 2006 widened the possible legal forms of cooperations, including more social and cultural goals for cooperatives. 

Financing and Support Measures

  1. Kreditanstalt für WiederaufbauThe “Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau” (KfW) provides start-up coaching and financial support for SEs. 
  1. Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie: The BMWi published 2017 a practitioners’ guide with practical advice and the most important players in the field.
  1. States: Bavaria, like many other states and cities, supports, co-financed by the European Social Fund, the start up of SEs with a maximum of 30,000 EUR as kick-start funding.
  1. EU funds, managed by German authorities, are used on different levels to support SEs.
  1. Networks: Many different networks and second-tier associations exist that provide support to SEs. SEND e.V., for example, operates as a less formal network that promotes SE.
  1. Competitions and awards: Different competitions like “start social”, “The German Sustainability Award”, and “Lighthouse” provide a further method of support and visibility for SEs. 
  1. Mikrokreditfonds Deutschland: Through a network of partners, loans up to 25,000 EUR are available to individuals.
  1. Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt: The foundation provides financial support of maximum 70,000 EUR to SEs to initiatives working on sustainable goals.
  1. Welfare federations: Large welfare federations have their own banks which are the biggest players in providing loans for SEs. The loans are often coupled with financial advise.
  1. Private foundations, big corporations and donations: Foundations and corporations like Volkswagen and BASF finance a large part of German SEs. “Aktion Mensch”, a bundling framework for private donations, represents another big player in financing SEs.

Key policy documents

Coming Soon

Funding Partners

Country Lead Grantees

Relevant Resources

Relevant Research Experts

Claudia Langer

PhD Candidate Claudia Langer Spain and Germany, Universities & Institutions University of the Balearic Islands Areas of Interest Social Innovation Social Entrepreneurship Digital Marketing Hospitality & Tourism Management Claudia Langer is a Director of Master in Hospitality Management, Lecturer & Researcher. Her research interests include Social Entrepreneurship in Tourism and Hospitality Distribution channels & [...]

Sabrina Schneider

PhD Sabrina Schneider Germany Universities & Institutions Universität Kassel Areas of Interest Business Model Innovation Social Entrepreneurship Sustainable Communities Strategic Management Technology & Innovation Additive Manufacturing Biography coming soon ... See all work by this Author

Sascha Klein

Sascha Klein Germany Universities & Institutions Northern Business School Areas of Interest Leadership Leadership Development Management Business Sasha Klein is a Researcher at the Northern Business School. See all work by this Author

Anne Bäro

Master of Science Anne Bäro Germany Universities & Institutions HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management Areas of Interest Work psychology Public value Virtual collaboration Anne Bäro is a Research Associate and a Doctoral Candidate at the HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management. She was a Research Fellow in the Ash Center for Democratic Governance [...]

Stefanie Mauksch

Senior Lecturer Stefanie Mauksch Germany Universities & Institutions Leipzig University Areas of Interest Social entrepreneurship Stefanie Mauksch is an Anthropologist and Organization studies scholar. She conducts ethnographic research on the social entrepreneurship movement, startup communities and the effects of entrepreneurial initiatives, preferably in the Global South. Her research is largely focused on how entrepreneurship [...]

Herbert Woratschek

Professor Herbert Woratschek Germany Universities & Institutions Bayreuth University Areas of Interest Coming soon Biography coming soon ... See all work by this Author

Franziska S. Kullak

PhD Candidate Franziska S. Kullak Germany Universities & Institutions Bayreuth University Areas of Interest Global Innovation Marketing Biography coming soon ... See all work by this Author

Patrick Spieth

Professor Patrick Spieth Germany Universities & Institutions Universität Kassel Areas of Interest Technology Innovation management Entrepreneurship Biography coming soon ... See all work by this Author

Sean Patrick Sassmannshausen

Professor Sean Patrick Sassmannshausen Germany Universities & Institutions Ostbayerische Technische Hochschule OTH Regensburg Areas of Interest & Expertise Entrepreneurship Family Business Small and Medium Enterprsies Owner Management KMU Management Start-ups Spin-offs High Growth Ventures Gazelles Corporate Entrepreneurship Intrapreneurship Executive Education Dr. Sean Patrick Sassmannshausen is Professor for Business Administration and Entrepreneurship and Head of [...]

Matthias Raith

Professor Matthias Raith Germany Universities & Institutions Otto-von-Guericke-Universität Magdeburg | OvGU · Faculty of Economics and Management European Academy of Management (EURAM) Areas of Interest Social Entrepreneurship Business Model Design and Development Analysis and Support of Decision Processes Negotiation Analysis and Mediation Support Proactive Knowledge Transfer Strategic Economic Policy Matthias Raith is a member of the Faculty [...]

Johanna Mair

Professor Johanna Mair Germany, USA Universities & Institutions The Hertie School, The University  of Governance in Berlin Stanford University, USA Research & Expertise Social entrepreneurship Social innovation Johanna Mair is Professor of Organization, Strategy and Leadership at the Hertie School, The University of Governance in Berlin. Her research focuses on how novel organisational and [...]


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