ELI Enterprise Foundations in Europe

Quick Facts

Project Type: Model Law, Principles and Practical Guidance
Procedure: Regular
Adopted: 3 July 2023 (CD 2023/10)
Project Period: August 2023–August 2025


An overview of past and upcoming events of this project is available here.


Enterprise foundations – ‘foundations that own companies’ – play an important role in European society as responsible, long-term owners of business companies. In addition, through their donations and operating philanthropy, they contribute significantly to the public good. They promote equality, social progress, protection of the environment, and scientific and technological advances. In this context, they make a significant contribution to achieving goals of sustainable and inclusive growth in Europe, facilitating a more active involvement of citizens and civil society. Since the foundations are non-profit entities, they constitute a unique European alternative to conventional capitalist enterprises.

And yet, despite their significant contribution to European society, European enterprise foundations live out a shadowy legal existence which limits their potential contribution. Although enterprise foundations are permitted in most European countries, and many leading European companies are owned by foundations, they are usually regulated by foundation law that tries to enforce a strict separation between for profit and non-profit entities and does not recognize the benefits that foundation ownership of business companies entails. Very few European countries have a codified enterprise foundation law that explicitly addresses business ownership. Moreover, the idiosyncrasies of national foundation law – tax law not less than civil law – imply significant barriers to cross-border integration at a point in time when solutions to European and global problems have attained paramount importance.



The purpose of this project is to contribute to overcoming these obstacles by presenting a catalogue of solutions to legally regulate enterprise foundations.

The team aims to explain why enterprise foundations are useful, and to describe the legal and practical obstacles to efficient cross-border operations of foundations in Europe. In doing so, it will consider a broad range of foundation types, including family foundations and functional equivalents such as trusts.

This will enable policy makers at national and European levels to make informed choices of the legal options at their disposal.



The team will develop a legal definition of enterprise foundations with a view to providing clarity on this legal construct.

Through comparative legal analysis (a bottom-up approach), the project will identify key sources of variation in national enterprise foundation law (including the law of functional equivalents such as trusts and companies) and explain the legal and economic implications of these choices. This will provide national and European legislators with an informed menu of options on the issue.

Lastly, based on existing enterprise foundation law, the project will outline a model enterprise foundation law and key legal obstacles which currently prevent enterprise foundation rules from being implemented by a broader set of European countries. Such model law will be drafted to meet the needs from as many European countries as possible.

Project Assistant