News - 11 September 2014

New research shows public appetite for businesses with a conscience

Research released today (Thursday 11 September) by Social Enterprise UK and the Cabinet Office shows that 63% of people in the East Midlands would be more likely to buy from a business reinvesting its profits into the community in which it operates.

The UK-wide research marks the UK’s first Social Saturday this Saturday 13 September, 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 day also celebrates the UK as the world’s largest social enterprise sector.

The poll, which surveyed 2,070 British adults [1], examined how consumers feel about the behaviour of businesses. The results uncover that many British people have strong views about buying from businesses known to be irresponsible:

  • 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

These 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 [2]. 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 profits into a social cause, from employing and training people furthest from the job market, to profits going to support charities.

Nottingham social enterprise EVE Trades has recently celebrated getting its 150th person into work.

The Gregory Boulevard -based organisation was set up in 2011 to encompass eight county- based social enterprises which provide a range of services, from painting and gardening to coffee shops, record store and bike services. They reinvest profits to achieve their social aims – to support vulnerable and unemployed people by providing training, volunteering, work placement and employment opportunities within their social enterprises.

Emma Lucas, Business Operations Manager said:

“Over the last two years EVE Trades has supported 665 people into work placements, supported 1,370 people to access training and helped 150 people into work. 

“Vulnerable and unemployed people gain skills and confidence that support them on a journey to independence.  We are proud that almost 50% of our staff are people that we have supported in the past. 

“EVE Trades social enterprises make every effort to purchase from other social enterprises and ethical businesses and we encourage our staff to do the same. 

“We will be getting involved with Social Saturday via a campaign aimed at our parent charity’s (Framework Housing Association) staff and EVE Trade’s staff to encourage them to purchase goods and services with social responsibility.”

One new Derby social enterprise is hoping to help people recovering from mental ill-health get back into work.

Outside the Pot, based in Oakwood, provides indoor plants to offices across the East Midlands. Once they have enough clients they aim to employ people recovering from mental ill-health to look after the plants, creating a stepping stone towards full-time employment. 

Set up by best friends and psychology graduates Andrew Mullan and Leigh Stanley in January this year, the pair are passionate about improving happiness at work with subtle changes to the environment, and employing people recovering from mental health difficulties.

Andrew said:

“We can make a tangible improvement to employees’ happiness, health and well-being at work with indoor plants: It’s a competitive advantage for local businesses.  We’re confident we can measure the benefits over six months and, at the same time, provide a way for people who have endured mental health difficulties to rebuild self-esteem.”

The organisation have agreed to donate 50% of their annual surplus to mental health charity MIND.

This Social Saturday 13 September will encourage the British public to ‘buy social’ and  social enterprises around the country are opening their doors and hosting events There is also now a range of ways that people can invest their money to further support social enterprises. People can find out more and buy online at

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