Policy paper

Understanding mission-led businesses: terms of reference

These terms of reference outline the government's review on mission-led businesses and their role in the UK's growing social economy.



Within the economy, new businesses are emerging that seek to achieve social as well as financial impact. We call these ‘mission-led businesses’. These businesses are addressing critical social problems without using familiar social sector legal forms, such as a charity or a community interest company.

A new generation of people want to buy and invest in a different way, and are demanding a broader pool of social investment opportunities. Mission-led businesses are emerging to meet this market demand.

The Government Inclusive Economy Unit, in the the Department for Culture, Media & Sport, has led a study of this growing sector, gathered further data and worked with an independent Advisory Panel to make recommendations for how industry and government could support it.

The Call for Evidence closed on 8 July 2016.

Final report of Advisory Panel

Read the report of the Advisory Panel.

In November 2016, the independent advisory panel to the mission-led business review published its findings. They set out 10 recommendations to support mission-led businesses in the UK to double their social and financial impact over the next decade.

The recommendations focus on four main areas:

  1. Leading the conversation and building the evidence base: A key element of making the case for mission-led business is the ability to align competing interests to a single agenda that promotes benefits for all. Government, opinion formers and educators must work together to disseminate a clear and compelling message that aligns with the public mood and encourages discussion and debate.

  2. Building mutually beneficial partnerships: Companies are already investing in social impact agendas, but more can be done to build consensus across and between organisations. By definition, mission-led businesses enable and encourage partnership and the business community must work together to innovate and achieve sustainable change.

  3. Tackling current and alternative governance models: Current corporate legal structures offer flexibility as to corporate aims and responsibilities, but often the optionality embedded in the legal text is often ignored or poorly understood. Educational efforts are required, alongside consideration of new structures that might better serve companies with economic, social and environmental purposes.

  4. Building transparency and accountability: As mission-led businesses expand their activities and play a larger role in the mainstream of business activity, there is a need for tools to measure and benchmark performance, alongside rules for greater transparency and reporting.

Regional events

Together with partners, we held a series of events around the country in order to hear from mission-led business leaders:

City Date Time
Cambridge 28 June 2016 2pm to 4.30pm
London 1 July 2016 10am to 3pm
Cardiff 4 July 2016 midday to 3pm
Oxford 7 July 2016 midday to 3pm
Bristol 13 July 2016 11am to 2pm
Manchester 14 July 2016 midday to 3pm
Birmingham 18 July 2016 midday to 3pm

Data research

In partnership with Big Society Capital, we commissioned quantitative market research into the size and profile of mission-led business in the UK. You can read the research here.

For further information please email GIEU@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

Published 11 March 2016
Last updated 5 December 2016 + show all updates
  1. This page has been updated
  2. Added list of regional events.
  3. First published.