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Business Social enterprise Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Social impact United Kingdom

This report presents a comprehensive overview of the social enterprise sector in the United Kingdom in 2019. 

Key findings:

  • Growing in number - 42% of social enterprises are under 5 years old, which is three times the proportion of SMEs more widely (14%). Three in ten social enterprises are three years old or less, even higher than previously, showing that the start-up wave identified in previous research continues to surge.
  • Growing in size - 52% of social enterprises grew their turnover in the last 12 months. This is higher than in 2017 and much higher than the 34% of SMEs who have seen an increase.
  • Independent businesses - Social enterprises are businesses that earn their income through trading, competing in the marketplace – 77% of social enterprises earn more than 75% of their income from trading, up on our previous survey.
  • More innovative - The proportion of social enterprises introducing a new product or service was 56% in 2019, higher again than in previous years and far outstripping SMEs, at 36%.
  • Commercially successful - 48% of social enterprises made a profit in the past year, with 27% breaking even and a lower percentage losing money than in previous research. The longer a social enterprise has been around, the more likely it is to make a profit.
  • More diverse - 40% of social enterprises are led by women, over twice as high as SMEs more widely (17%). Two in five (42%) have a majority female workforce; for 13%, women are the entire workforce. 34% of women-led social enterprises are under three years old, compared with 28% led by men.
  • Respecting the environment - Nearly nine out of ten social enterprises (88%) report that their organisation actively aims to minimise its environmental impact, up from our previous survey.


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