UK social enterprise sector reveals outstanding growth and almost £1bn in profits

social enterprise

The NatWest SE100 report is the biggest survey of the UK social enterprise sector’s turnover, growth, profitability and employment to date and compiles data from 2,120 social enterprises with a total turnover of £8.5bn contributed to UK GDP.

The research findings show that the social enterprise sector is growing strongly – with average year-on-year growth in turnover for the established social enterprises on the Index of 61 per cent. Moreover, the leading social enterprises are growing at a phenomenal rate with average year-on-year growth of the 100 fastest growing enterprises of 932 per cent.

Additionally, 57 per cent of social enterprises reported growth in their turnover with just under 2 per cent reporting turnover was consistent and just under 42 per cent reported negative growth.  Social enterprises on the NatWest SE100 Index reported a combined total of £934m in profit, with a significant proportion of this profit used to further their social or environmental goals. It was found that 60 per cent reported a profit and 40 per cent reported a loss.

The report also suggests that as social enterprises mature, we can expect them to grow into multi-million pound ventures. The average turnover of enterprises under three years old on the Index is £634,000 whilst the average turnover of enterprises which are ten years old or more is £8m.

In fact the biggest 100 enterprises – by turnover – handle most of the money that passes through the NatWest SE100 Index. The total turnover of the biggest 100 enterprises is £6.5bn which represents 76 per cent of the total turnover of the whole Index.

The NatWest SE100 report also reveals trends from the sector across England, with the South West of England demonstrating the highest growth, whilst London hosts the highest proportion of social enterprises from the Index, with the largest total turnover of £2.3bn.

Mark Parsons, Head of Community Finance and Social Enterprise, RBS, said: “The NatWest SE100 report reveals a social enterprise sector which is growing in both strength and maturity. As social enterprises continue to make a sustainable social impact to both disadvantaged and marginalised groups, they should feel buoyed by the positive news that year on year growth in turnover for established enterprises was 61 per cent, whilst the Index also reveals social enterprises grow as they mature.

“Although the latest NatWest SE100 Index has revealed positive trends for the sector, it is only when you take a closer look at the inspirational work social enterprises delivers, that the true impact of the sector can be appreciated.”

Geetha Rabindrakumar, Head of Social Sector Engagement, Big Society Capital said, “It’s encouraging to see the overall growth in social enterprise across all regions of the UK. The use of social investment has grown over this last year and we hope that social investors will play an increasingly important role in supporting the growth and resilience of social enterprises of all sizes in future.” 

Zoe Burgess, Investment Associate, Bridges Fund Management commented, “The SE100 report is always a great barometer of the health of the sector and this years’ report really highlights it growing maturity throughout the UK.  Its findings provide further evidence that mission led teams can build successful, high growth enterprises at scale while making a real difference to pressing social challenges.”