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The significant size and impact of Scotland’s social enterprise businesses is being revealed for the very first time, with the launch of the results of a large-scale census.

Conducted by Social Value Lab, in partnership with a range of national agencies, the new research confirms Scotland as a world-leading nation in nurturing social enterprise and recognises social enterprise as a fairer and more inclusive way of doing business.

  • Over 5,000 social enterprises in Scotland
  • Over 200 new social enterprises formed each year
  • Highlands and Islands has 22% of all social enterprises
  • Provides over 112,400 jobs
  • £1.15bn in combined traded income
  • Net collective assets £3.86bn
  • Gross Value Added (GVA) figure is approx. £1.7bn

Rachael McCormack of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, speaking on behalf of the project steering group, said:

“This excellent report confirms the scale and vital contribution of social enterprise to society and to the economy in the Highlands and Islands and to Scotland as a whole. Social enterprise is a business model that helps tackle social issues, promote equality and achieve sustainable economic growth. These are the reasons that we attach so much importance to social enterprise and are working with social entrepreneurs to strengthen leadership, innovation and the business dimension of their enterprises. Working together in this way will help achieve our shared ambition to grow the social enterprise community year on year.”

Alex Neil MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights, The Scottish Government, said:

“Social enterprises are making a real difference to the lives of people in our communities and have a major role to play in our drive for social justice. This census shows they are embracing the principles of fairness and equality with more than two thirds of social enterprises paying at least the living wage and with women taking on senior positions in 60 per cent of these organisations. We look forward to working with the sector in the period ahead.”

Jonathan Coburn, Director, Social Value Lab, the organisation commissioned to carry out the research, said:

“This has been an enormously challenging and significant piece of work, one that at last provides a definitive picture of the scale, reach and economic significance of social enterprise activity in Scotland. It tells the story of an important and diverse group of ethical, community-led and democratic enterprises that have grown up largely beneath the radar, but which now touch on the lives of people in almost every urban and rural community in the country. The research shows that it is possible to operate in a way that is both good for business and good for Scottish society.”

Download the full Social Enterprise in Scotland Census here.

For further information on social enterprise research and mapping contact Jonathan Coburn, Director, Social Value Lab, on 07786 735 395 or



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