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

“Québec has roughly 7,000 social economy enterprises (3,300 cooperatives and 3,700 enterprising non-profits).

They provide jobs for over 210,000 individuals, which represents 5% of total employment in Québec or one out of 20 jobs. The number of jobs in social economy enterprises compares to levels observed in sectors such as wholesale and business services.

In 2002, annual sales of social economy enterprises stood at $17 billion. Today, coops and mutual alone account for $40 billion.” [Translation]

Drawn from the Plan d’action gouvernemental en économie sociale 2015-2020 – The figures on the numbers of enterprises were published in 2002 in the Portrait statistique des entreprises d’économie sociale, a collective publication by the Ministère des Finances, Ministère de l’Industrie et du Commerce, and the Chantier de l’économie sociale. This publication has not been updated since. The data on the number of employees of social economy enterprises includes Desjardins and the major agricultural cooperatives, and the data from the survey Les repères en économie sociale et en action communitaire published in 2016 by the Comité sectorial de main-d’oeuvre Économie sociale et action communautaire. Last, the sales figure from the cooperative and mutual movements is calculated annually (CONSEIL QUÉBÉCOIS DE LA COOPÉRATION ET DE LA MUTUALITÉ, Plan stratégique des réseaux coopératifs et mutualistes du Québec dans une perspective 2020, 2015).

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