The first lines of social entrepreneurship in Serbia could be recognized in the 19th century through the establishment of cooperatives. The first cooperative in Serbia was founded in 1846, immediately after the formation of first cooperatives in Europe. Also, the first Union of cooperatives in Serbia was founded in 1895 and as national association participated in the founding of International Cooperative Alliance – ICA in 1895. Three years later, in 1898, the first Law on Agricultural and Craft Cooperatives in Serbia (srp. Zakon o zemaljoradničkim i zanatskim zadrugama) was adopted.
The National Assembly of Republic of Serbia, after years of preparation and discussions of draft document, on 4 February 2022 adopted the Law on Social Entrepreneurship which entered into force on 15 February 2022.
With this Law, Serbia has defined social economy as economy whose primary goal is deriving benefits for the broader social community and socially vulnerable groups, rather than making profit and social entrepreneurship as the performance of activities of general interest in order to create new and innovative opportunities for solving social problems, problems of individuals or socially vulnerable groups, and for preventing the emergence and the elimination of the consequences of social exclusion, strengthening the social cohesion and solving other problems in local.
Social entrepreneurship is also defined in article 5 of Law as a business operation in which the generated profit is invested in the integration of socially vulnerable groups, environmental protection, rural development, education, culture, social innovations and other areas of broader social interest. Social entrepreneurship is particularly realised through:
1) production of goods and provision of services (social, educational, health, etc.), in accordance with this Law;
2) integration into labour market, in accordance with this Law;
3) business operation that contributes to the sustainable development of the devastated areas and local communities;
4) business operation that solves problems in other areas of general interest. communities and the society as a whole.
This Law also introduces the term environmental protection through the principle of sustainable growth and development under the Article 3 that implies that social entrepreneurship and incentives for social entrepreneurship shall be planned and implemented while considering:
- requirements pertaining to environmental protection;
- climate change fight;
- mitigating the effects of climate change and adapting to climate change;
- preventing the overuse of natural resources;
- increasing energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The ecological dimension in social enterprises in Serbia is mostly based on the use of sustainable raw materials in production (recycling and reusing) and reducing the impact on the environment through business activities (e.g., sustainable ways of transportation, biodegradable packaging, digitised administration…). Also, digital trends in the business sector provided new opportunities. Today on the market exist many digital products with social missions related to environmental issues (e.g. City & Me: digital platform with Android and iOS application which encourages activism and action of users in the field of recycling, cycling… through rewarding for achieving proposed green goals – if users ride a bike for 50 km in the city areas, they will receive 1 CM token that can be exchanged for two tickets public theatre).