In celebration of Social Saturday, which took place over the weekend, some entrepreneurs got the opportunity to meet actor and activist Michael Sheen at London’s Borough Market.
Social Saturday is designed to inspire people to buy from British social enterprises. Well-known names include The Big Issue, Café Direct, Divine Chocolate and Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant chain. Britain is home to 70,000 of these alternative businesses, which contribute 24bn to the economy and employ one million people.
Free of shareholders, social enterprises – which include cooperatives – choose to plough their profits back into the business to deliver on their social or environmental cause, which might be getting ex-offenders back into employment, or reducing the amount of waste that goes into landfill.
Michael spoke with a number of social entrepreneurs and took part in a cookery demonstration with Brigade, a life changing social enterprise that trains homeless people as professional chefs, helping them to get off the streets and into work.
The Welsh actor, who is Patron of Credit Unions Wales, said:
“Recently I’ve been visiting social enterprises in the UK and Spain to learn more about how they’re helping to regenerate communities and change people’s lives for the better. I’m keen to understand how I can help bring some of the strengths of this alternative business movement back to Wales.”
Awareness of social enterprise is growing in the UK and the key reason for this is the rise in the number of social enterprises selling to British consumers.
Peter Holbrook CBE, CEO of the campaigning body Social Enterprise UK, which orchestrates Social Saturday, said:
“We were delighted to introduce Michael to some of the UK’s most inspiring social entrepreneurs, who are using their business acumen to positively change the communities and the world we live in. Awareness of social enterprise is growing in the UK and the key reason for this is the rise in the number of social enterprises selling to British consumers. People care about the ripple effect of their spending – it’s one of the reasons that the social enterprise movement is thriving. Social enterprises operate in communities across the UK, from coffee shops and cinemas to dentists, supermarkets and leisure centres.”
UK social enterprise facts
- Awareness of social enterprises is rising.
- The majority of the British public (51%) are now aware of these alternative businesses, compared with 37% two years ago in 2014.
- In 2008, only 1 in 5 (20%) were aware of social enterprises.
- Social enterprises are much more likely to be led by women than mainstream businesses: 40% per cent of social enterprises have a female chief executive, compared with 7% of FTSE 100 companies.
- The majority of social enterprises (59%) actively employ people who are disadvantaged in the labour market, including ex-offenders, people with disabilities and the long-term unemployed.
- Three quarters (74%) of social enterprises pay the Living Wage as accredited by the Living Wage Foundation.
Social enterprises at Borough Market on Social Saturday
- From Babies with Love – baby clothes – every purchase supports orphaned and abandoned babies to grow up in loving family homes
- Frank Water – reusable water bottles, using profits to provide life changing access to safe water and sanitation for marginalised people living in India’s tribal regions and urban slums
- Alive and Kicking – make footballs in Africa, sustaining 155 ethical jobs and using 100% of profits to deliver health education programmes
- Buy Rice Back – upcycled rice bags – use the profits to provide homes and education to children in the South of India who would have otherwise been forced into begging
- Sniffy Wiffy – hand/body creams to help in the fight against breast & testicular cancer
- The Soap Co – luxury soap and hand creams – employs people who are blind or disabled (80% of its staff) – the org behind it, CLARITY, is the oldest social enterprise in the UK, founded 1854
- Stand 4 socks – ethically made socks – profits support global causes including providing vaccines to children in developing countries
- Harry Specters – handmade chocolates, providing jobs and training to young people with autism
- Tea People – sells tea – profits help to educate underprivileged children in tea growing regions around the world
- Papi’s Pickles – sells pickles – provides women from Sri-Lankan and South-Indian communities training, jobs, support and skills for life
Borough Market is not only London’s oldest fruit and veg market, but also unique in being a charitable trust that exists to provide a market for the public. Borough works with small businesses and social enterprises, providing them with guidance and support. Currently it is home to three social enterprises – Change Please, The Golden Company and Rubies in the Rubble.