When there is a major issue, the media and politicians want to get the views of business leaders. We hear regularly from the car makers, pharmaceutical companies, farmers and bankers. But social enterprises are rarely heard from.
Policy makers, journalists, economists and business leaders are locked into a traditional mindset. Yet all around us, the economy is changing.
New research published by Social Enterprise UK and supported by Co-op Group and Nationwide, The Hidden Revolution, has updated recent estimates of the social enterprise sector. It has found that social enterprises contribute £60bn to UK GDP compared to the £24bn we previously thought. In total, there are around 100,000 social enterprises, thousands more than we previously thought. Our sector employs nearly 2m people compared with the 1m people we had assumed.
Our sector is bigger and more significant than has been appreciated up till now.
But apart from updating some numbers, why is this research important?
It is important because it forces government, businesses and media to take more notice of our sector. We are bigger than the agricultural sector. We employ as many people as the creative industries. What happens to social enterprises matters for the whole UK economy. Our voice must be heard at the top table.
It combats the myth that all social enterprise are small. Small and medium sized social enterprises are the backbone of our sector. But we have major businesses in our ranks, such as Nationwide and Co-op who supported this report. Social enterprises can be, and are, major employers and major tax payers. We can operate at scale. Backing social enterprise doesn’t mean giving up on bigger businesses.
The UK Government cannot afford to ignore social enterprises. Social enterprises are growing, are more innovative than their peers and creating a more diverse business leadership. We are the key to solving the UK’s productivity puzzle and resolving the social and environmental challenges facing our country and the world. Social enterprises are committed to the UK long term, are not at risk of moving overseas and will continue to contribute to the local and national UK economy.
We will be using this new report to reset the dialogue between government, business, media and the social enterprise sector.
We encourage everyone in the social enterprise movement to promote the report and use it to call for greater support for social enterprise. It is time that everyone paid attention to the Hidden Revolutiontaking place in our economy.
Charlie Wigglesworth – Deputy Chief Executive, Social Enterprise