Social enterprises lead the way in inclusive employment

Forty four percent of social enterprises seek to employ individuals from disadvantaged groups, concludes a report published by Social Enterprise UK (SEUK) this week. 

The State of Social Enterprise Survey 2017 was launched on 21 September and is the 'most detailed and representative' that SEUK has undertaken since the research series started a decade ago. 

The 2017 study analysed employment inclusivity levels in the social enterprise sector and concluded that individuals who are long-term unemployed make up the largest group social enterprises seek to employ, followed by people with mental health issues, those with learning disabilities and ex-offenders.

The report also found that geography is a factor in which groups social enterprises are seeking to employ. London-based organisations are more likely to be trying to employ those coming out of homelessness (14%), for instance.

Nick Temple, deputy chief executive of SEUK, said that the information about inclusive employment was “the most important message of the report”. 

The survey found that social enterprises remain younger on average compared to other small to medium-sized businesses (SMEs). Alongside an increase in the numbers of more established social enterprises, 25% remain under three years old (compared to 8% of SMEs).

The report also found that 28% of social enterprises are based in the most deprived communities in the UK, down from 38% in 2013.

Speaking at the launch, Temple suggested that this could be a result of the difficulties of working in the most deprived areas, or simply a consequence of the overall growth in the number of social enterprises across the UK.

The percentage is still significantly higher than that of mainstream SMEs.

Some of the survey's findings appear conservative alongside the government report on social enterprise market trends, published last week. For instance, the government figures show that 93% of social enterprise employers generated a profit over the last year, compared with the SEUK estimate of 71% making a profit or breaking even in the last year.

Such disparities may be a result of a smaller sample used by the government report, suggested Temple.

The results of the SEUK report are taken from 1,581 telephone and online interviews with senior figures in social enterprises, a rise of almost a third on the 2015 sample.

The State of Social Enterprise Survey 2017 found that 41% of social enterprises are led by women, with 51% having a majority female workforce. 

This is compared to a female leadership of 20% amongst mainstream SMEs. However, there is still room for improvement in this respect for social enterprises, said Temple.

You can read the full SEUK report here.


On 12 October Pioneers Post and NatWest SE100 will be launching the WISE100, the first ever index for the 100 most influential and inspirational women in social enterprise. 

Photo credit: Social Enterprise UK