The best government data estimates that there are approximately 70,000 social enterprises in the UK contributing £18.5 billion to the UK economy (based upon 2012 Small Business Survey, 2013) and employing almost a million people.

The Peoples Business Report

SEUK published in ‘The People’s Business’ which reveals a thriving social enterprise sector in the UK that is attracting a wave of entrepreneurs and out-performing mainstream business.
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Key Facts

  • Close to a third of all social enterprises are three years old or younger, with three times the start-up proportion of traditional SMEs.
  • Social enterprises are very heavily concentrated in the UK’s most deprived communities. 38% of all social enterprises work in the most deprived 20% of communities in the UK, compared to 12% of traditional SMEs.
  • Social enterprises are far more likely to be led by women than mainstream businesses. 38% of social enterprises have a female leader, compared with 19% of SMEs and 3% of FTSE 100 companies.
  • 91% of social enterprises have at least one woman on their leadership team. 49% of mainstream SMEs have all-male directors.
  • 11% of social enterprises export or licence abroad – and the newer start-up social enterprises are more likely to export than established social enterprises.
  • 56% of social enterprises developed a new product or service in the last 12 months compared to 43% of SMEs. New product or service development is often used as a proxy-indicator of business innovation.
  • 28% of social enterprise leadership teams have BAME directors. Only 11% of SMEs report having directors from a BAME background.
  • 63% of respondents expecting their turnover to increase in the next two to three years – compared to 57% two years ago. Only 37% of SMEs expect their turnover to grow.

  • 38% of social enterprises saw an increase in turnover compared with 29% of SMEs, in the last year. This means that proportionally, almost a third more social enterprises grew based on turnover last year than SMEs.
  • In 2011, 25% of social enterprises that worked mainly with the public sector cited procurement policy as a principal barrier to their sustainability. In 2013, that figure stands at 34%.
  • The most common (32%) main source of income for social enterprises is trade with the general public. Close to half of all social enterprises now trade with the private sector too.
  • The proportion of social enterprises that trade with the public sector is increasing – and attracting a higher proportion of social enterprise start-ups. Over half (52%) of social enterprises do some trade with the public sector – twice the proportion of SMEs (26%).
  • Twice as many social enterprises (48%) as SMEs sought finance in the past 12 months and 39% cited access to finance as the single largest barrier to their growth and sustainability – the most common barrier experienced.
  • The median amount of finance sought by social enterprise was £58,000 – below the minimum thresholds of many specialist social investment vehicles.


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