New Census Reveals Big Growth of Social Enterprises in Scotland

Posted: 06 September 2017, in Press Release


New census reveals big growth of social enterprises in Scotland

The latest Social Enterprise in Scotland: Census 2017 report has been launched in Glasgow today (Wednesday 6 September). The new report shows clear growth in the number of social enterprises and their economic impact.

The research cements Scotland’s global reputation as a world-leading nation in the support and development of social enterprise:


  • 5600 social enterprises now operating in Scotland (up from 5199 in 2015)
  • 64% of Scotland’s social enterprises led by women
  • £2bn GVA, the economic contribution of social enterprises to Scotland
  • 34% of social enterprises located in rural Scotland
  • 50% negatively affected by the economic climate over the last 12 months
  • 599 social enterprises formed in the last two years
  • 81,357 full-time equivalent employees in Scottish social enterprises
  • 1:2.5, is the average differential between the highest and lowest paid worker


Read the full report and summary documents.

The project was led in partnership with a range of sector support organisations and The Scottish Government.

Gerry Higgins, of Community Enterprise in Scotland (CEIS), speaking on behalf of the steering group said:

“Social Enterprise in Scotland: Census 2017 demonstrates a strong and growing social enterprise community in Scotland. The data in the report contain a broadly positive picture, with social enterprises making a significant economic contribution and demonstrating resilience in the face of challenges for the economy and public services.

“Social enterprises play an essential role in communities across the country, particularly in the most remote parts of Scotland. The 2017 Census also shows that some parts of the sector remain fragile or in need of continuing support to fully realise their potential.

“This is the second time we’ve measured social enterprise activity across every region of Scotland and allows us to begin comparing and contrasting the data with the 2015 Census.

“As public expectations of business and the need for an inclusive economy grow, we need to continue investing in Scotland’s world-class support for social enterprise. A huge thank you must go to everyone who took part in leading the research, from the national steering group to the dedicated research team who produced such a thorough and robust report.”

Angela Constance MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities, The Scottish Government said:

“I have no doubt of the contribution that social enterprises make to our country. They are fantastic examples of what we want to achieve in a fairer Scotland – reducing inequality, lifting people out of poverty and encouraging more empowered and resilient communities. It is staggering, but perhaps unsurprising, that the sector makes a combined contribution to the Scottish economy every year of just over £2 billion.

“The Scottish Government will continue to support social enterprises through our ten year strategy, investing millions of pounds into the sector. We are also keen to work with social enterprise communities at home and abroad, particularly around the Social Enterprise World Forum. I am proud of all we have achieved, working collaboratively and I look forward to doing even more in the years to come.”

Note that while many of the new statistics can be compared to the 2015 report, some data gathering has been improved and direct comparisons are not possible e.g. the number of jobs is now a full time equivalent figure.

The full report was launched on Wednesday 6 September at the CEIS Policy and Practice conference in Glasgow and is now available to download.

For further information, to arrange an interview or to request a social enterprise feature for print please contact: / 07501 221 581.



Notes to Editors:

1 The headline figures from the previous Census report from 2015 are here. The full report from 2015 is here.

2 What is a social enterprise? Social enterprises are independent businesses that exist to deliver a specific social and/or environmental mission. This could be employing homeless people, recycling waste or something similar. They aim to make profit like any other business, but invest 100% of it in their social purpose. Social enterprises in Scotland are “asset locked” (all property, money etc. can only be used for a social mission). They’re a more ethical and sustainable way of doing business. Social enterprises are not charities that get most income from grants/donations and they’re not a business simply behaving ethically or an arms-length company of a public body. Read more here.

3 What examples are there? Diverse examples include: The Big Issue, The Wise Group, Social Bite, Divine Chocolate, Cornerstone, Kibble Education and Care, media co-op, Glasgow Housing Association, Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, Link Group Ltd, the Eden Project, Capital Credit Union, The Grameen Foundation, Mondragon Corporation in the Basque Country and the Homeless World Cup.