Green goals are big business

Businesses driven by social or environmental goals rather than profit are making some £18 billion in the UK every year and employ almost 800,000 people.

These are the findings of a report on social enterprises published by the DTI this week.

The survey was carried out by the DTI’s Small Business Service to provide a snap-shot of social enterprises in Britain today and look at how they contribute to society and the environment.

Alun Michael, Small Business Service Minister said: “Social enterprises provide a huge boost to many areas of the UK, including many of our most deprived communities.

“We are committed to encouraging growth in this important sector and aim to help improve the way it does business.

“The results of this survey will be used to develop future policy in this area.

“There is an increasing role for the social enterprise sector which is strongly reinforced by this report.

“Its firm evidence will help us take the agenda forward.

“The research confirms what I have long known – that these businesses are successful trading businesses delivering socially beneficial outcomes.”

The survey showed that while social enterprises operate all over the UK almost a quarter of them are based in London.

As employers they are responsible for around 1% of the country’s workforce.

The survey dispels the myth that social enterprises are entirely reliant on hand-outs for their survival, showing that the vast majority of employment and turnover is generated through their own trading activity.

Although around half of social enterprises receive grants, donations and subsidies, which account for 12% of income, over 82% of turnover is from trading income.

A third of social enterprises derive their income from care work while other important sources of trading income are social and personal services, real estate and renting, and adult education.

Over half of social enterprises are located in less affluent areas and many play a role in urban regeneration.

Most social enterprises exist to help particular groups of people either through employment of providing goods and services.

The most common groups helped are those with disabilities, young people the elderly and those on low incomes.

Nearly a quarter had environmental objectives.

With their social motivation, they represent an alternative business model for delivering services and spotting market opportunities, which can have significant benefits for the community.

The survey set out to understand the sectors where these businesses are active, where they operate, who they benefit and how they generate income.

Jonathan Bland, chief executive of the Social Enterprise Coalition, said: “This important new data indicates that social enterprise is operating on a much larger scale than previously thought.

“It reinforces our view that social enterprise should be given much greater recognition and support by government at all levels.”

By Sam Bond

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