Business must be socially responsible to succeed - Business Works
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Business must be socially responsible to succeed

by Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise UK The results of our new survey on public attitudes to business practices have been released today in conjunction with the Cabinet Office, says Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise UK. It shows that British adults are concerned about where and how they buy products and services.

The UK-wide research marks the UK's first Social Saturday this week on 13 September 2014, a day to raise awareness and boost the numbers of consumers buying from social enterprises businesses that have a positive impact on communities and the environment. The UK is home to the world's largest social enterprise sector and is the world leader in social investment.

The poll, which surveyed 2070 British adults, examined how consumers feel about the behaviour of businesses. The results uncover a stigma attached to buying from socially irresponsible businesses:

  • 1 in 3 (35%) said they feel ashamed when buying from businesses they feel are socially irresponsible more women than men feel this way (40% vs 30%);

  • More than a third (40%) said they don't feel there are enough socially responsible businesses to buy from in the UK;

  • A quarter (26%) said that there is a stigma attached to buying from socially irresponsible businesses

  • 1 in 7 (14%) people aged 25-39 said they hide from friends that they buy from socially irresponsible businesses;

  • 1 in 5 (18%) said they would be put off a romantic partner if he or she regularly bought products or services from socially irresponsible businesses.

people value businesses with a strong ethical and community focus

The results show that British people value businesses with a strong ethical and community focus. The Government estimates that there are now 180,000 social enterprises in the UK (15% of SMEs), contributing billions to the economy and employing more than 2 million people.

Well-known brands include The Big Issue, Jamie Oliver's Fifteen, Better leisure centres, Pants to Poverty, Divine Chocolate and Belu Water. All are businesses that reinvest their profits for good and are driven by social cause, from employing people furthest from the job market to reducing carbon emissions.

Here are some facts about social enterprises:

  • Half of (52%) actively employ people who are disadvantaged in the labour market, including ex-offenders, people with disabilities and the long-term unemployed.

  • Social enterprises create jobs and stimulate local economies where they're needed most. More than a third (38%) of all social enterprises operate in the UK's most deprived communities, compared to 12% of mainstream SMEs.

  • People are gravitating from mainstream business to carve out a career in social enterprise. More people are moving from the private sector than any other sector to work in social enterprise (35%, compared with 33% from the public sector and 17% from charities and the voluntary sector).

  • Social enterprises are much more likely to be led by women than mainstream businesses. Thirty eight per cent of social enterprises have a female chief executive, compared with 19% of SMEs, and 7% of FTSE 100 companies.

  • Social enterprises are twice as likely as mainstream SMEs to be led by someone with a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic background.

On Social Saturday on 13 September, social enterprises around the country are opening their doors and hosting events to encourage the British public to 'buy social'. People can also invest their money to support social enterprises. Find out more and buy online at www.socialsaturday.org.uk.

"A staggering 82% of social enterprises reinvest their profits locally and Social Saturday is an opportunity for people across the country to explore the breadth of this vibrant and growing sector," said Brooks Newmark MP, Minister for Civil Society. "There is clearly a demand for people to buy social and there are now more ways than ever for people to invest socially as well."

Wages and taxes are leading issues for consumers and the polling also reveals which business practices are likely to affect people's purchasing decisions:

  • Three-quarters (74%) said they are less likely to buy a product or service from a business paying below the minimum wage this is higher among people aged 60 and over (85%) than those aged 18-24 (62%).

  • Two-thirds (63%) said they are more likely to buy a product or service from a business that pays the living wage.

  • Three-quarters (73%) said they are less likely to buy from a business that damages the environment - this is higher among people aged 60 and over (83%) than those aged 18-24 (62%).

  • Two-thirds (65%) said they are more likely to buy a product or service from a business that pays its correct taxes this is notably higher among people aged 60 and over (80%) than those in the 18-24 year old bracket (48%).

Every product and service you buy has a social or environmental impact, so why not make it a good one? The UK's social enterprise sector is growing fast because consumers care about how their spending decisions affect the world they live in.



Social Saturday is being led by the national trade body, Social Enterprise UK, and is supported by the Cabinet Office and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The day has cross party political support and is part of the UK's successful Buy Social campaign. Watch the Buy Social animation, narrated by founder of The Big Issue, John Bird.

For more information, please visit: www.socialenterprise.org.uk




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