Social enterprise is worth £60bn a year to the UK economy, £36bn more than previously thought, according to new research from Social Enterprise UK.
The umbrella body’s report Hidden Revolution, which was published today and produced with support from the Co-op and Nationwide, says government estimates had placed the value of social enterprise at £24bn a year.
Researchers found that there were about 100,000 social enterprises in the UK, the report says.
Previous estimates had been based on small and medium-sized social enterprises, the report says, but the latest figures include about 5,000 large social enterprises for the first time.
The report says the social enterprise sector accounts for 3 per cent of gross domestic product, three times larger than agriculture and as important as creative services for the UK’s economy.
Social enterprises employ 5 per cent of people in work in the UK, the report adds.
Almost half of social enterprises say they grew in the past 12 months, compared with only 34 per cent of traditional businesses, the report says.
The top five cooperatives in the UK also pay more tax than Amazon, Facebook, Apple, eBay and Starbucks combined, according to the report.
The report says that the government should strengthen its support for social enterprise through initiatives such as teaching it in the school curriculum and using the tax system to incentivise businesses that have a positive social impact.
Earlier this year, the government announced it would extend the social value act to ensure all government departments explicitly evaluate social value when commissioning services.
Lord Victor Adebowale, chair of SEUK, said: "The public, politicians and experts all agree that we need to find a different way of doing business if we are going to balance growth with the needs of society. Fortunately, we have 100,000 social enterprises that are working to transform our society while boosting the UK’s competitiveness.
"Their £60bn contribution to the UK is too big to ignore and is just the start of something that the government must get behind. If it doesn’t, there is a real risk that the UK will get left behind as other countries recognise social enterprise as the future of business."