Social enterprise

Social Enterprise

Social benefit at the heart of business.

A growing sector in the region

Social enterprises are big business. Over 88,000 jobs are supported by the sector in Scotland and it contributes £2.3bn GVA. Around a third of Scotland’s social enterprises are in rural areas. There are more than 1,200 in the Highlands and Islands. 

Social enterprises trade just like any other businesses, but at their heart they have a social purpose. They trade for social, community and environmental benefits rather than distributing profits to shareholders or owners.

Across the HIE area social enterprises own and manage land, including whole estates and islands, harness renewable energy technologies, create employment, undertake infrastructure projects and provide an increasingly diverse range of essential services.

We work with around 150 social enterprises across the Highlands and Islands through our account management approach.

Support for Social Enterprises

As a business with a social purpose you have access to all our business support programmes, and a bit more. We are able to help earlier with developing your idea, and support you with various stages of development. Find out more here.

Social Enterprise in the Highlands and Islands

Some key facts from the Social Enterprise Census 2019


of our region's social enterprises are in rural areas


GVA social enterprise economic contribution


of social enterprises pay at least the living wage to employees


of our social enterprises are led by women

Community-owned development

In addition to the business services available to social enterprises, we also work with community led organisations to support community project planning, asset ownership, fund management and more.

If your enterprise is part of a wider community-led development find out the others ways we can help.

Support for community organisations

Enterprising communities

Meet some of the fantastic social enterprises and organisations already working in Scotland. They all have a great story to tell, and may provide some good ideas as you develop your plans.

Case studies of our remarkable communities