FACTBOX: How social enterprise is thriving in Britain

by Astrid Zweynert | azweynert | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 9 July 2013 09:12 GMT

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Key facts from "The People's Business" report by Social Enterprise UK

By Astrid Zweynert

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Social enterprises in Britain have performed better than traditionally run small- and medium-sized businesses, are more diverse and are concentrated in some of the UK's most socially deprived areas, according to a report released on Tuesday.

In the past 12 months, 38 percent of social enterprises surveyed saw an increase in their turnover compared with mainstream small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), umbrella body Social Enterprise UK found in its "The People's Business" report.

There are 70,000 social enterprises in the UK contributing £18.5 billion to the economy and employing almost 1 million people, Social Enterprise UK said. 

Social enterprises focus on addressing social problems or helping the environment but unlike charities need to make a profit. They include celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant chain, The Big Issue magazine sold by homeless people and Belu Water, a bottled water company that gives a large share of its profits to charity WaterAid.

Here are some key facts from the report: 


  • Social enterprises are far more likely to be led by women than mainstream businesses: 38 percent have a female leader (chief executive officer, founder, director) compared with 19 percent of mainstream SMEs and just 3 percent of companies listed in the index of 100 leading UK companies.
  • 91 percent of social enterprises have at least one woman on their leadership team, compared to 49 percent of mainstream SMEs.
  • 28 percent of social enterprise leadership teams have directors from ethnic minority backgrounds, compared to 11 percent of mainstream SMEs.
  • Social enterprises are very heavily concentrated in the UK's most deprived communities: 38 percent of all social enterprises work in the most deprived communities, compared to 12 percent of traditional SMEs.


  • 38 percent of social enterprises saw an increase in turnover in the last year, compared with 29 percent of mainstream SMEs, while 22 percent experienced a drop, compared with 31 percent of mainstream SMEs.
  • Social enterprise has three times the start-up rate of the mainstream SME sector.
  • 56 percent of social enterprises developed a new product or service in the past 12 months, compared to 43 of mainstream SMEs.
  • 39 percent of social enterprises cited access to finance as the biggest barrier to their development.
  • The average amount of finance sought by social enterprises is £58,000 - below the minimum threshold of many specialist investment vehicles.

SOURCE: Social Enterprise UK

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