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First ever census reveals major impact of Scotland’s social enterprises

04 September 2015

The significant size and impact of Scotland’s social enterprise businesses is revealed for the very first time, with the launch of the results of a large-scale census.

The new research confirms Scotland as a world-leading nation in nurturing social enterprise and recognises social enterprise as a fairer and more inclusive way of doing business.

  • Over 5,000 social enterprises in Scotland
  • Highlands and Islands has 22% of all social enterprises
  • Edinburgh and Glasgow account for 26% of all social enterprises
  • 60% of social enterprises have a woman as their most senior employee
  • 68% of social enterprises pay at least the recognised Living Wage
  • Provides over 112,400 jobs
  • £1.15bn in combined traded income
  • Net collective assets £3.86bn
  • Gross Value Added (GVA) figure is approx. £1.7bn

The research was commissioned by a range of public and social enterprise organisations*. Speaking on behalf of the project steering group Rachael McCormack, director of strengthening communities at Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), said:

“This excellent report confirms the scale and vital contribution of social enterprise to society and to the economy in the Highlands and Islands and to Scotland as a whole. Social enterprise is a business model that helps tackle social issues, promote equality and achieve sustainable economic growth. These are the reasons that we attach so much importance to social enterprise and are working with social entrepreneurs to strengthen leadership, innovation and the business dimension of their enterprises. Working together in this way will help achieve our shared ambition to grow the social enterprise community year on year.”

Jonathan Coburn, Director, Social Value Lab, the organisation commissioned to carry out the research, said:

“This has been an enormously challenging and significant piece of work, one that at last provides a definitive picture of the scale, reach and economic significance of social enterprise activity in Scotland. It tells the story of an important and diverse group of ethical, community-led and democratic enterprises that have grown up largely beneath the radar, but which now touch on the lives of people in almost every urban and rural community in the country. The research shows that it is possible to operate in a way that is both good for business and good for Scottish society.”

View the full report >


1 *The Social Enterprise Census 2015 was funded by: Big Lottery Fund, Co-operative Development Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Nesta, Social Investment Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and The Scottish Government.

2 The Social Enterprise Census 2015 is a project endorsed and guided by the following main partners: Big Lottery Fund, Community Enterprise in Scotland, Co-operative Development Scotland, Firstport, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Glasgow Caledonian University, Nesta, Scottish Enterprise, The Scottish Government, Scottish Urban Regeneration Forum, Senscot, Social Enterprise Academy, Social Enterprise Scotland, Social Enterprise UK, Social Firms Scotland, and Social Investment Scotland.

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