Media Release: Social Enterprise FAQs for Scottish journalists

social enterprise scotland logo (cropped cutting white space)

WE’VE updated our short one page media FAQs about social enterprise in Scotland, that clarifies some points and hopefully clears up any misconceptions about what social enterprise is all about. The update includes the headline social enterprise Census research results.

We’ve seen a big growth in media coverage of social enterprise in Scotland over the past few years – big thanks to everyone who’s written about our business community!

Social enterprise business innovation and good news stories, as well as referring to an organisation as a ‘social enterprise’ has increased across broadcast, print and new media.

We welcome this increased awareness and Social Enterprise Scotland is here to assist you with any requests for information, comment on stories or to write articles for publication.

Social Enterprise FAQs for Scottish journalists

What is a social enterprise? Social enterprises are innovative, independent businesses that exist to deliver a specific social and/or environmental mission. This could be employing homeless people, providing social housing, recycling waste or something similar. They aim to make profit like any other business, but invest 100 per cent of it in their social purpose. Social enterprises in Scotland are ‘asset locked’ (all property, money, etc. can only be used for their 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.

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 and the Homeless World Cup.

Are social enterprises not-for-profits? No. All social enterprises aim to make profit, just like any other business. The only difference is that they invest 100 per cent of profit into a social and/or environmental mission.

So what’s the difference between a social enterprise, a social business and a social firm? Sometimes different phrases are used but for clarity we use the specific term ‘social enterprise’. With no legal definition this helps distinguish authentic social enterprises. A social firm is a specific type of social enterprise that employees people with disabilities or other similar challenges. We sometimes use ‘more-than-profit’. We also support the Voluntary Code of Practice for Social Enterprise in Scotland.

How many social enterprises are there in Scotland and how big is their impact? We’re a relatively small part of the wider economy but growing fast. The first comprehensive research, launched in 2015 showed: over 5,000 social enterprises in Scotland, over 200 new social enterprises formed each year, providing over 112,400 jobs, £1.15bn in combined traded income, net collective assets of £3.86bn, a Gross Value Added (GVA) figure of approx. £1.7bn, 60 per cent of social enterprises have a woman as their most senior employee, 68 per cent of social enterprises pay at least the recognised Living Wage, 42 per cent formed in the last ten years, with an average age of 17 years.

How is Scotland doing in terms of social enterprise? Scotland is leading the way internationally in terms of social enterprise support and development, sometimes referred to as ‘the Scottish model’ of doing business. There’s currently strong policy support from The Scottish Government and Parliament and all political parties at Holyrood.

What models of social enterprise exist? The more-than-profit approach is used by many organisations, of every size, operating in every corner of Scotland and in many sectors of the economy. A social enterprise is often just a Company Limited by Guarantee with an ‘asset lock’ and social mission. It could also be a registered charity, Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO), Co-operative, Mutual, Social Firm, Community Interest Company (CIC), Development Trust, Credit Union or Housing Association (Registered Social Landlord / RSL). A social enterprise can be a combination of these models. Together, they make up Scotland’s social enterprise movement. Read more about definitions.

Read the Complete Guide to Social Enterprise in Scotland. See our Live 24/7 Twitter newsfeed – news stories direct from over 400 Scottish social enterprises. Please get in contact with questions or requests for articles or commentary. We’re keen to hear from local as well as national print, broadcast and new media outlets: Duncan Thorp, communications officer, Social Enterprise Scotland, 0131 243 2650 / 07501 221 581,, Thorn House, 5 Rose Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2PR. Social Enterprise Scotland is a Company Limited by Guarantee: SC294227.

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Social Enterprise Scotland contact details…

Contact: Duncan Thorp