According to section 3 of the Social Economy Act,

“Social economy” means all the economic activities with a social purpose carried out by enterprises whose activities consist, in particular, in the sale or exchange of goods or services, and which are operated in accordance with the following principles:

  1. the purpose of the enterprise is to meet the needs of its members or the community;
  2. the enterprise is not under the decision-making authority of one or more public bodies within the meaning of the Act respecting Access to documents held by public bodies and the Protection of personal information (chapter A-2.1;
  3. the rules applicable to the enterprise provide for democratic governance by its members;
  4. the enterprise aspires to economic viability;
  5. the rules applicable to the enterprise prohibit the distribution of surplus earnings generated by its activities or provide that surplus earnings be distributed among its members in proportion to the transactions each of the members has carried out with the enterprise;
  6. the rules applicable to a legal person operating the enterprise provide that in the event of its dissolution, the enterprise’s remaining assets must devolve to another legal person sharing similar objectives.

For the purposes of the first paragraph, a social purpose is a purpose that is not centred on monetary profit, but on service to members or to the community and is characterized, in particular, by an enterprise’s contribution to the well-being of its members or the community and to the creation of sustainable high-quality jobs.

A social economy enterprise is an enterprise whose activities consist, in particular, in the sale or exchange of goods or services, and which is operated, in accordance with the principles set out in the first paragraph, by a cooperative, a mutual society or an association endowed with legal personality. (2013, c. 22, p. 3.)


Overall portrait

Quebec counts approximately 11 200 social economy enterprises, which together, generate 47,8 G$ in revenue and employ 220 000 individuals throughout Quebec.

Out of 11 200 enterprises, 75% are enterprising not-for-profit organizations (NPO), 21% are non-financial cooperatives and just over 3% are financial cooperatives or mutual-benefit societies.

Collectively, social economy enterprises count 13.4 million members. 2.4 million individuals are members of non-financial cooperatives, 4.5 million are members of NPOs, 1 million are members of mutuals, and 5.5 million are members of financial cooperatives.

Social economy enterprises present an astounding longevity. 39% of them have been in activity for more than 30 years and 35% between 16 and 30 years. However, the social economy also proves to be developing as 11% of enterprises are between 10 and 15 years old, and 15% are less than 10 years old.

An essential characteristic of its identity, the social economy has about 90,000 volunteer board members involved in the democratic governance of enterprises. On this point, it should also be noted that there are as many women (50.5%) as men (49.5%) sitting on boards, which certainly distinguishes the social economy from larger companies in Quebec where women represent around 20% of board members. It is also interesting to note that nearly one in five (18%) board members are under the age of 35.

Finally, it should be noted that social economy enterprises play a vital role in the economic and social vitality of all regions of Quebec and, particularly, in regions such as Gaspésie and Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Bas-Saint-Laurent and the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region, where the number of social economy enterprises per capita is proportionally higher than elsewhere.

Source : INSTITUT DE LA STATISTIQUE DU QUÉBEC (2019). L’économie sociale au Québec. Portrait statistique 2016, [En ligne], Québec,  Institut de la statistique du Québec, 225 p.


Business Sectors

  • Agrifood
  • Arts and culture
  • Retail
  • Environment
  • Solidarity finance
  • Collective real estate
  • Collective infrastructures
  • Recreation and tourism
  • Manufacturing
  • Media and communications
  • Early childhood
  • Research
  • Representation and consultation
  • Natural resources
  • Health
  • Business services
  • Personal services
  • ITC
  • Transportation