Hintere Außenansicht des D2 Gebäudes

Austrian Social Enterprise Monitor (ASEM)

Austria's social enterprises pursue social and environmental goals through entrepreneurship. They develop new solutions in the areas of health, poverty among the elderly, labour market integration, climate change, education and more.

Although their work is very important, little is known about these organizations. What legal forms do they choose? How do they finance themselves? What role did they play during the pandemic? How satisfied are Austria's social enterprises with the political framework? How does Austria's social enterprise sector compare internationally?

The Austrian Social Enterprise Monitor 2021/2022, the largest and first international study on social enterprises in Austria to date, presents new findings and facts on this topic:


The aim of the Austrian Social Enterprise Monitor 2021/2022 as well as further iterations of the report is to improve data availability in regards to social entrepreneurship in Austria. The results should help decision-makers from politics, business and the civil society to understand this emergent ecosystem and to support it with appropriate measures.

The Austrian Social Enterprise Monitor is part of the European Social Entrepreneurship Monitor consortium (ESEM), consisting of over 50 leading support organizations and universities in Europe. The ESEM was initiated by the European Commission and the Euclid Network and implemented for the first time in 2020 in Germany, Denmark, England, Estonia, Croatia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden and Spain (among others by ESADE, Social Enterprise UK, SEND). Building on this successful pilot run, the Monitor 2021-2022 has been implemented in over 18 European countries and will also be continued and expanded on in 2023-2024. This database will enable numerous country monitors as well as a comparative European publication. The methodology of the survey is developed by a European, scientific panel led by Prof. Johanna Mair (Hertie School of Governance, Stanford), Prof. Matthias Reith (EURAM) and Professor Niels Borma (Utrecht University, Global Entrepreneurship Monitor), and provide internationally comparable, systematic results.

The Austrian Social Enterprise Monitor represents Austria's country monitor and has been conducted by the Social Entrepreneurship Center of WU Vienna since 2021. In accordance with the European Consortium the project will be continued in 2023/2024. The overarching goal of this study is to generate solid primary data material with sector- and location-relevant analyses based on it. The results can serve as a basis for political discussion and further measures by the public sector. This study aims to make the following contributions, among others:

  • Current, quantitative survey of essential characteristics of Austrian social enterprises (sector, location, innovations, jobs, company age, founding team, etc.).

  • Assessment of the effects of COVID-19 on social entrepreneurs

  • Analysis of enabling and hindering framework conditions and possible support and subsidy gaps in private and public support services and ecosystems

  • Internationally standardised survey in accordance with the ESEM methodology enables broad sampling and analysis of differences and similarities between different types of social entrepreneurs (market-oriented, participatory, etc.)

  • Broad coverage of social entrepreneurs through sampling by means of multipliers and independent creation of a secondary source-based longlist (cf. methodology Austrian StartUp Monitor)

  • Documentation of the Austrian results within the detailed, publicly accessible study and presentations

  • International comparisons in an additional, independent report at the European level by EUCLID Network and Academic Board

Important findings from the 2021/2022 report:

15 Facts about Social Enterprises in Austria

Social enterprises in Austria

1 … pursue social and ecological goals. Health, reduction of societal inequalities, humane working conditions as well as education are some of the most prevalent Sustainable Development Goals. More than half of the businesses (52,3 %) either entirely or additionally go after ecological goals.

2 … are working for the common good. More than 92,0 % of enterprises who make statements about their distribution of profits say that they put most or the entirety of their profits back into their business to achieve the underlying mission.

3 … are serious about impact. More than 92,5 % perform impact measurement or plan to do so in the near future.

4 … are predominantly startups. 51,2 % of enterprises have been founded in the past ten years, 34,9 % are in early development stages (“Seed-”, “Startup-” or “Early Development Stage”).

5 … are innovators and also surprisingly tech-savy. 84,9 % started their organization with an innovative approach, 72,9 % plan to develop new products and processes within the next year. Rather surprising: more than half use new technologies like apps, artificial intelligence and virtual reality in their work.

6 … use different types of legal forms. Most of them start as a registered associations (46,9 %), GmbHs (35,3 %) or individual companies (12,0 %). One in nine enterprises combines different legal forms to account for the duality in their organizations mission.

7 … are located in all federal provinces. Most of them are located in Vienna (54,5 %) followed by Styria (11,4 %), Lower Austria (11,4 %), Upper Austria (9,8 %) and Vorarlberg (4,1 %).

8 … are female. More than 75 % of Founding partners are either female or mixed. 50,8 % of the company management and 46,0 % of founders are women. The share of women in our sample of social enterprises is much higher when compared to commercial startups and other publicly listed companies.

9 … rely on a mix of revenue streams. 12,8 % of businesses can solely rely on market sources, while 17,8 % are fully dependent on non-market revenue sources – most of them (69,5 %) have a mix of these revenue sources.

10 … are inclusive employers. On average they employ 72,4 people (full-time equivalent, median: 5). The organizations in this survey alone employ roughly 18.640 people. Almost two-thirds employ people from a variety of ethical backgrounds and more than a third enable people with disabilities to gain employment.

11 … have actively tried to help during the COVID-19 pandemic – while struggling themselves. 64,0 % have still been able to reach their beneficiaries by digitalizing their services, developing new services entirely or by shifting resources. 15,6 % have indicated that they themselves have suffered from the economic consequences of the pandemic and were limited in their ability to reach the beneficiaries.

12 … face financial challenges. Only 24,4 % have indicated to be profitable in the last year, while 21,0 % made a loss. Losses are especially frequent in companies that are in early development stages.

13 … face different obstacles. Survey respondents name complex funding, a lack of private as well as public financing, too little awareness and staff shortage as some of their biggest challenges.

14 … observe a lack of political support. Only 7,4 % are satisfied or very satisfied with the political support of social enterprises. This value is very small especially compared to international data. When looking at data from 13 countries, Austria is only in the 11th place in terms of perceived political support.

15 … have big ambitions. Almost 90,0 % plan to scale their services by developing new products, forming new partnerships, focusing more on marketing or by expanding to other regions. More than half of the enterprises (51, 5 %) plan to scale through the employment of new people within the next 12 months after the survey.

Funding & Outreach Partner

Policy & Outreach Partner

Outreach Partner


Dr. Peter Vandor

Peter Vandor

Head of Social Entrepreneurship Center, Senior Researcher
Responsibilities: Co-founder and Head of the Social Entrepreneurship Center. Research: Social entrepreneurship, migrant entrepreneurship, mental wellbeing and internationalisation among social entrepreneurs, civil society in CEE Founder of Social Impact Award.