What is the Fourth Sector?

A Fourth Sector business is one that has a Public Good component to its mission, in addition to using Business Activities to earn a significant portion of its revenue. These businesses are sometimes referred to as hybrids, since they combine aspects of both a nonprofit (mission) and a for-profit (earned income).  Some of these hybrids form as a nonprofit, while others form as a for-profit entity. In some states, hybrid legal forms such as the L3C, the Benefit Corporation, or the Multi-Purpose Corporation are also available.

The fourth sector includes many social enterprises, enterprising non-profits, cooperatives, and triple-bottom-line businesses. A few NC examples:

See our Idea Bank for many more examples of North Carolina fourth sector businesses.

For more detail on the Fourth Sector, download The Emerging Fourth Sector from the Aspen Institute.