It is a real pleasure to be here with you today to discuss one of the highlights of my job – raising awareness of the great social enterprise work that goes on in the UK.
To be at a whisky refinery at the start of spring only enhances that feeling, so many thanks to Chivas for hosting this event! I would also like to commend Chivas on their global statement which champions social enterprise as a force for good in business.
One of the appeals of social enterprise is that, as a concept, it is so very simple – and yet the possibilities are endless.
Take 2 of the finalists of Chivas’s ‘Venture’ who are here today – 1 is a courier company that helps disabled, disenfranchised and long-term ill people to return to employment and the other a brewing company that gives some of its profits to Prostate Cancer UK.
Two completely different operations united by a common desire to make a difference. It’s something we’re beginning to see more and more of across the country – 1 in 5 UK businesses now have a social mission at their heart, and we are fast becoming the centre for social enterprise globally.
This means that our social enterprises contribute £55 billion annually to the UK economy and their growth has been a key part of this government’s long-term economic plan.
This is a phenomenal achievement and as a government we are working hard to drive more and more of this kind of venture, with policies designed to nurture social investment and get it onto the global agenda.
Our goal is simple – we want the UK to be the global hub for social enterprise, social investment and social finance.
Social enterprise support
We are committed to creating the right environment for these innovative and life-changing organisations to grow so they can support communities in the UK and across the globe.
To do this, social enterprises need access to finance and investment, which is why we introduced the world’s first social investment tax relief to drive more investors to put their money into organisations that do more than make profit.
And we set up the world’s first social investment bank, Big Society Capital, which has already seen over £180 million of investments to the frontline, supporting over 100 ventures across the UK.
These ventures once again highlight the diversity of what social enterprise can achieve – from £150,000 going to a skate park in Dundee which provides young people with peer-to-peer education and stewardship, to £10 million to support housing for people with a learning disability so that they have more choice about their living arrangements.
We’ve also provided non-financial support in the form of initiatives like the Buy Social Directory, which lists over 10,000 social enterprises so that business and government can easily find the services they need.
The social economy is a great UK success story. We’ve seen how well it works here and we want to export our success to other countries, share the lessons we have learnt and drive investment from abroad into social ventures at home.
When the G8 met in Northern Ireland in 2013, we put social investment right at the heart of our agenda. And last week in New York we launched a global drive as part of the GREAT Britain campaign to highlight why the UK is the number 1 destination for social investment.
To date, the GREAT campaign has delivered a return to the economy of over £1 billion and is now active in 144 countries. It is this scale of ambition that we want to bring to the UK’s social economy.
As you can see, we’re doing our best to create the right environment for social enterprise both at home and abroad. But in reality, government is only laying the groundwork for socially-minded business, investors and consumers to make the difference.
The UK is a nation of entrepreneurs and capitalists but we also have a fantastic heritage of philanthropy and social reform. Too often we think of these traditions as being separate, when it should be perfectly possible for people to invest in a way that makes good business sense while also supporting good causes.
It’s about combining financial hard-headedness with altruism and social concern – allied together these can be an incredibly powerful and effective force.
Look at issues like homelessness, reoffending or long-term unemployment – these complex problems aren’t new, but the solutions have eluded successive governments for decades.
Government doesn’t have all the answers, and social ventures are often better able to tailor services around the needs of communities and individuals; they can be more responsive and agile and can help find the kind of lasting and comprehensive solutions that are necessary.
The examples of social enterprises I have met so far have been truly inspiring and initiatives like Chivas’s ‘Venture’ show how traditional business models can mix with good causes to make a real difference in society.
And if you won’t take my word for it, perhaps Jamie Oliver can convince you otherwise.
Watch the video: GREAT Social Enterprises and Social Investment in the UK
GREAT social enterprise and investment