“The State of Social Enterprise 2017”

Full Report Here

Key findings:

Growth and structure

  • Around 70,000 social enterprises in the UK, contributing £24 billion to the economy and employing nearly a million people.
  • 25% of social enterprises are under 3 years old, three times the proportion of start-ups compared to SMEs (8%). Almost four in ten social enterprises are five years old or less.
  • 28% of social enterprises are based in the most deprived communities in the UK. 34% of social enterprises are operating at a neighbourhood or local level.
  • 74% of social enterprises earn more than 75% of their income from trading.
  • The most common source of income for social enterprises is the general public: for 27% is it the main source of income.
  • The number of social enterprises introducing a new product or service in the last 12 months stands at 50%. Among SMEs it has fallen to 33%.
  • 51% of social enterprises made a profit in the past year, with 20% breaking even. 47% grew their turnover in the last 12 months, compared to 34% of SMEs.
  • 41% of social enterprises are led by women. 51% of  social enterprises have a majority female workforce.
  • 89% of social enterprise Senior teams have a female director, 34% have Black Asian Minority Ethnic representation and 36% have a director with a disability.
  • More than two-thirds of Social Enterprises are supporting individuals from disadvantaged groups, and more than four in ten employ them.
  • 78% of social enterprises report paying the living wage to their employees. The average salary of a social enterprise chief executive is £36,115.


  • Only 12% of Social Enterprises increased the size of their workforce: almost a third (30%) have had to reduce their number of employees in the past 12 months.
  • The public sector is the main source of income for 20% of all social enterprises; it is the main source for 59% of social enterprises over £5 million turnover.
  • One in eight of social enterprises  with public sector income is getting it via European programmes.
  • Access to the right finance at the right time in the right form remains the principal barrier to sustainability and growth, although the demand for finance has dropped slightly from previous years.
  • The ability to recruit the right people with the right skills is increasing as a challenge for many.