Social enterprises, businesses which trade for a social and/or environmental purpose, are thriving despite operating in the toughest economic conditions for over a decade according to the latest research from Social Enterprise UK and Barclays.
The ‘No Going Back: State of Social Enterprise Report 2021’ reveals that a record-breaking 12,000 social enterprises were created last year, as entrepreneurs seek to better their communities in the wake of the pandemic.
In the UK there are currently more than 100,000 social enterprises and they contribute £60 billion to the UK economy, employing 2 million people. Nearly a quarter of social enterprises operate in the most deprived communities of the UK and social enterprises in these areas have higher levels of turnover and staff than those in richer areas.
Having a positive social and environment impact is a top priority for social enterprises, with the vast majority (84 per cent) stating that this impact is as important as costs. In the run up to COP26, these businesses have also made strong commitments to tackling climate change, with two thirds of social enterprises stating they have either put a commitment to tackling climate change into their governing documents or are considering doing so. Additionally, one in five (20 per cent) of social enterprises address the climate emergency as part of their core mission.
Social enterprises are also setting the pace for female-led business with the sector on course to be first to reach gender parity with 47 per cent of social enterprises now led by women.
Peter Holbrook CBE, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise UK said: “The pandemic has been an enormous shock to our economy, and many have doubted whether social enterprises can survive when the going gets tough. This research has found that not only can social enterprises survive, they can thrive. Whether it is growing their business, hiring new staff, giving more opportunities to women or tackling the climate emergency, social enterprises are leading the way.
“Rather than dismissing social enterprises as a novelty or exception, we need politicians and investors to take these entrepreneurs seriously. They are showing a roadmap for our future where business tackles the multiple, overlapping challenges that our country faces. There is no time to waste.”
Hannah Bernard, Head of Business Banking at Barclays, said: “Businesses across the spectrum have been tested to their limits during the pandemic, however the resilience and creativity demonstrated by social businesses to continue their growth and do so much good – in spite of these challenges – is astonishing.
“Many of the societal and environmental challenges we’re facing are only set to intensify, and we believe social enterprises hold many of the answers. We’re proud to be strengthening our support of these businesses with specialist support and new access to finance, as they continue to do great things in our society.”