New census report reveals social enterprises contribute over £2.63bn to Scottish economy

Posted: 16 January 2023, in Press Release

The Social Enterprise in Scotland: Census 2021 report has been published today and shows that the sector has continued to grow despite the joint challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit.

In 2021, the 6,047 social enterprises operating in Scotland employed nearly 90,000 full-time employees and contributed over £2.63bn to the Scottish economy, a 14% increase from 2019.

The findings cement Scotland’s reputation as a world-leading nation in the support and development of social enterprise. Key highlights from the census include:

  • 6,047 social enterprises operating in Scotland in 2021
  • 71% of social enterprises are led by women
  • 33% of social enterprises are located in rural Scotland
  • 85% of social enterprises paying at least the living wage to all employees
  • The annual income of social enterprises in the country is £4.8bn
  • The net worth of Scotland’s social enterprises is £7bn

The 2021 Social Enterprise in Scotland Census is the fourth account of national social enterprise activity, following similar studies undertaken in 2015, 2017 and 2019. Each census has given an insight into the scale, reach and contribution of social enterprise to Scotland’s communities and economy.

Chris Martin, CEO of Social Enterprise Scotland said:

“The Social Enterprise in Scotland: Census 2021 clearly demonstrates that the sector remains strong, despite the challenges of the pandemic. The data in the report contains a broadly positive picture, with social enterprises making a significant contribution to the Scottish economy (up from £2.3bn to £2.63bn since 2019) and remaining resilient in the face of challenges. We continue to see core metrics heading in the right direction, be that social enterprises who pay the Real Living Wage (up from 75% to 85% since 2019) or the net worth of the social enterprise sector (which has risen to £7bn from £6.1bn in 2019).

Social enterprises adapted well to service delivery challenges and changes in service demands over the period of the report, but they didn’t change their overall approach, acting the way they have always done, driven by values and a desire to do what is best in the interests of people and the planet.

Social enterprises continued to employ and retain staff, paid the Real Living Wage and took steps to reduce their carbon emissions. This is not a one-off but a trend that we have charted through each census from 2015 to show that social enterprise really can be the business model of choice.”



  1. The full 2021 census report is available to download here.
  2. The Social Enterprise in Scotland: Census 2021 has been co-ordinated by CEIS and Social Value Lab with support from a project steering group and funding from the Scottish Government. For more information, please visit
  3. Social Enterprise Scotland is an independent, membership-led organisation and is the voice of social enterprise in Scotland. For more information, please visit