What is a Social Enterprise?
Social enterprises are innovative, independent businesses with a social and/or environmental purpose, working all round the UK and internationally. They trade for the common good rather than unlimited private gain, addressing social needs, strengthening communities, improving people’s life chances, enhancing culture or protecting the environment.
They aim to make profit like any other business, but invest 100% of it in their social purpose. Social enterprises in Scotland are “asset locked” (all property, money etc. can only be used for a social mission/impact). They’re a more ethical and sustainable way of doing business.
Many have traditionally been run as a charity that have been encouraged to be more enterprising to ensure sustainability, while others are small businesses with a social purpose. However, the term “social enterprise” shouldn’t be confused with private businesses that simply operate in an ethical way, charities that don’t do business (or trade very little) or public sector arms-length companies (ALEOs), though some of these may be on a journey as “emerging” social enterprises.
Social enterprises often provide inventive solutions to society’s problems and are relied upon to reach communities that others can’t. Social enterprises are slowly changing the face of how we do business throughout the world, providing a refreshing and empowering alternative.
See Social Enterprise: an idea whose time has come.
The social enterprise sector is incredibly diverse, encompassing co-operatives and mutuals, development trusts, community enterprises, housing associations and social firms. Some well-known examples include: The Big Issue, The Wise Group, Divine Chocolate, the Eden Project in Cornwall, Jamie Oliver’s Restaurant chain Fifteen, Café Direct, The Grameen Foundation and Mondragon Corporation
Social Enterprise in Scotland – National Statistics
Scotland has a long history of pioneering new forms of business. The co-operative, mutual and social enterprise models reflect a belief in a fairer more equal society where business activity is used as a means to this end. Scotland’s first Social Enterprise census, commissioned by a range of public and social enterprise organisations*, takes stock of this maturing social enterprise sector and its contribution.
The Census reveals the significant size and impact of Scotland’s social enterprise businesses for the very first time and confirms Scotland as a world-leading nation in nurturing social enterprise.
- Over 5,000 social enterprises in Scotland
- Over 200 new social enterprises formed each year
- Highlands and Islands has 22% of all social enterprises
- Edinburgh and Glasgow account for 26% of all social enterprises
- 60% of social enterprises have a woman as their most senior employee
- 68% of social enterprises pay at least the recognised Living Wage
- Provides over 112,400 jobs
- £1.15bn in combined traded income
- Net collective assets £3.86bn
- Gross Value Added (GVA) figure is approx. £1.7bn
The full report can be viewed here.
The Census Key messages can be found here.
*The Social Enterprise Census 2015 was funded by: Big Lottery Fund, Co-operative Development Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Nesta, Social Investment Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and The Scottish Government. The report was researched and produced by the Social Value Lab.