Interviews

Social enterprise boosted by traditional firms’ insatiable appetite for profit

3 min read

12 October 2016

The social economy is on the rise, and YouGov revealed how the nation believes it’s all because companies have started getting a bit greedier.

“In some industries British consumers are really losing out and it’s a sign that capitalism has gone wrong,” Peter Holbrook, chief executive of Social Enterprise UK has said. “The public are getting a rough deal because some businesses have an insatiable appetite for profit.”

His words echoed a recently released poll of 2,000 UK adults by YouGov, which maintained the British public believed businesses are getting greedy. Toping the list of firms making an “unfair profit” are football clubs.

This was closely followed by utilities companies, with 61 per cent of respondents pointing their fingers at subscription providers such as Sky, Virgin, BT and Talk Talk. Of course, 58 per cent also placed the title of greed onto the head of train companies and banks.

The statistics vary depending on geography though. Some 55 per cent of people living in Scotland and the North think banks are making excessive profits, while 30 per cent of those in Wales think the same of businesses operating in childcare. Brits in the East have beef with the food industry and 57 per cent of the Midlands’ population suggest insurance companies are taking advantage.

But it all boils down to one thing: our way of thinking is swiftly changing as social purpose becomes a purchase trigger. Consumers may now be willing to spend more for a firm that supports a good cause, but beware if you inflate prices just because you can. It’s what we’ve started calling the bullsh*t radar – YouTuber Casey Neistat believes consumers know straight away when you’re feeding them the real deal.

It’s also one of the reasons awareness of social enterprise is on the rise, YouGov explained. Whereas one in five Brits acknowledged these alternative businesses in 2008, 51 per cent are now tilting their hats to the industry – leading to its phenomenal growth.

Britain’s social enterprise sector contributes 24bn to the economy and employs 1m people, with 49 per cent of such companies only being five years old or less.

“There are now social enterprise alternatives in almost every industry that consumers can buy from,” Holbrook said. “These businesses are free of the shackles of profit-hungry shareholders, which means freedom to put customers, employees and communities in first priority. One of the reasons that the UK’s social enterprise movement is growing is because people care about the ripple effect of their spending. Research shows that an increasing number of social enterprises are selling products and services to British consumers.”