Social enterprise has really come into its own over the last decade or so. Some of the better-known examples include Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Foundation, and street paper The Big Issue. However, the government now estimates there are around 55,000 social enterprises across the UK.
These companies have a combined turnover of £27bn per year, account for 5% of all businesses and contribute £8.4bn every year to the UK economy – that’s nearly 1% of annual GDP.
The average social enterprise employs 10 people but nearly half employ fewer than 10, 38% employ between 10 and 49, 11% have 50-249 employees and 2% employ more than 250. Traditionally, sole traders are few and far between in the social enterprise community.
Location wise, the vast majority (89%) of social enterprises are located in urban areas. A fifth alone are in London.
Most UK social enterprises operate in the health and social care sector (around 33%). This is mostly related to daycare, childcare, welfare and guidance, as well as accommodation services.
Social enterprises also commonly derive their main income from ‘community or social services’ (21%) and property (20%). A much smaller percentage of social enterprises trade in the educational sector (15%) or wholesale and retail (3%).
However, a big growth area for trading social enterprises has been the rising popularity of FairTrade products – the biggest example of which is coffee company, Café Direct.
There are now more than 3,400 FairTrade retail and catering products available and the industry as a whole grew by 81% between 2006 and 2007. UK sales now equate to an annual half a billion pounds.