UK among the world’s top three countries for social enterprises

Research carried out by the Thomson Reuters Foundation has revealed the best countries in the world to be a social entrepreneur. The UK ranks third in the list, with the...

Research carried out by the Thomson Reuters Foundation has revealed the best countries in the world to be a social entrepreneur. The UK ranks third in the list, with the USA and Canada occupying the first two positions.

Social enterprises are businesses aiming to tackle issues in the society. As organisations which have concern for community enshrined in their principles, co-operatives work to address problems within the society.

The report is based on a survey of 900 experts in 44 countries across the world, including academics, social entrepreneurs, investors, policy-makers and support network staff with a focus on social entrepreneurship.

Responding to the results, Peter Holbrook, chief executive of the trade body, Social Enterprise UK, said: “The findings of this poll reaffirm that Britain is one of the best countries in the world to start-up and run a social enterprise. Research shows that more people than ever before are establishing businesses with a social mission – social enterprises now have three times the start-up rate of traditional SMEs [small and medium enterprises].

“There are 70,000 social enterprises in Britain, contributing £24bn to the economy and employing more one million people. Research shows that 74% social enterprises pay the living wage, as accredited by the Living Wage Foundation.”

Social Enterprises UK's chief exec Peter Holbrook commented on the poll
Social Enterprises UK’s chief exec Peter Holbrook commented on the poll

Speaking about the contribution of social enterprises, Mr Holbrook said that they paid taxes and reinvested profit. He gave the example of Welsh Water, a mutual, which has recently announced it would offer a £32m windfall to its customers, reducing their bills. 

This is what is possible when companies are free of the shackles of profit-hungry shareholders,” he said. “With greater awareness we would hope to see more social enterprises start-up, and more consumers and organisations buy from them.

“Councils, private firms and housing associations have the purchasing power to help the social enterprise sector flourish.”

He added that only one third of the British public knew what a social enterprise was.

According to the report, social entrepreneurs in the UK are finding it difficult to sell to government.

“To help remedy this, we would like to see the Public Services (Social Value) Act strengthened. It has the potential to open the doors for providers delivering added value to communities, making social enterprises well positioned to win contracts,” said Mr Holbrook. “At the moment only forward thinking public bodies and commissioners are making the most of the legislation.

“The UK ranks 15th in the ability for social enterprise to sell to business. The majority of social enterprises (53%) already trade with the private sector and there is growing demand from larger businesses to bring social enterprises into their supply chains. The recently launched Buy Social Corporate Challenge will see big businesses aim to spend £1 billion with the sector by 2020. It’s a game changing initiative we hope more businesses will follow.”

He also called for improving access to investment for social enterprises. “Some progress has been made, but there’s work to be done to ensure that the social investment market is accessible to the majority of social enterprises operating in the UK,” he added.

In this article

Join the Conversation