Social Enterprises in the Netherlands: Towards More Institutional Diversity?

Coline Serres, Tine De Moor

Research output: Chapter/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


The Netherlands has a strong third sector and a long tradition of organizations pursuing social and/or environmental goals, often considered social enterprises. However, the country lacks a common definition and framework for social enterprises, and rather considers social entrepreneurship as a particular branch of entrepreneurship, leaving aside social enterprises incorporating as non-profits and cooperatives. Because of this narrow approach, many social enterprises not incorporated as social businesses are overlooked by the Dutch government but also by scholars. In this chapter, we adopt the approach of the EMES school of thought and review the legal forms that the Netherlands offers for social enterprises to incorporate. In early 2022, Dutch social enterprises have five options to incorporate: (1) private limited company, (2) public limited company, (3) cooperative, (4) foundation, and (5) association. Besides reviewing each of these forms and their implications when applied to social enterprises, we reflect on the place of social economy in the Netherlands. We also present ongoing legal developments for a better institutionalization of social enterprises in the Netherlands. We end our reflections by suggesting that Dutch social enterprises could receive the appropriate mechanisms, controls, and recognition they deserve by combining several existing labels and certifications.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe International Handbook of Social Enterprise Law
Subtitle of host publicationBenefit Corporations and Other Purpose-Driven Companies
EditorsH. Peter, C. Vargas Vasserot, J. Alcalde Silva
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-031-14216-1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022

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© The Author(s) 2023.


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