New research for Charity Finance has found that almost one-third of the public have never heard of the term social enterprise.
YouGov, on behalf of Charity Finance, quizzed more than 2,000 people and found 30 per cent had never heard of a 'social enterprise'.
A similar amount (33 per cent) thought it meant a business that is more interested in social or environmental goals, than in making money for owners or shareholders.
Having had a general description of social enterprise explained to them, more than one in four (44 per cent) of respondents said they would be more likely to use or buy products or services from a business calling itself a social enterprise.
However, 29 per cent of respondents said they would not trust a social enterprise to run any public services.
Dr Michael Wagstaff, head of public sector consulting at YouGov, said this shows that the latent demand for products provided by social enterprises does not automatically translate into delivery of public services.