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Is this the future of business? New data shows Greater Manchester social enterprises are on the rise to ‘build, back, better’

From credit unions, support services, recycling and photography, social enterprises make-up almost 3,500 businesses in Greater Manchester.

That accounts for 4% of all businesses across the region and they are on the rise – with more entrepreneurs becoming socially conscious and community focused. There have been more than 500 new social enterprise start-ups since November last year.

Greater Manchester social enterprises reinvest between £45-90 million back into the region every year.

Now data has been collected from 140 social enterprises in a Greater Manchester Social Enterprise Survey 2020, thanks to funding from Power to Change, Social Enterprise UK and The Business Group, based in Salford, which reveals the impact of their work across all ten boroughs.


The data collection showed half of the social enterprises across Greater Manchester are working in education, health, and social care (49%) – which have been vital industries during the pandemic.

More than two thirds of social enterprises work in hyperlocal areas and 41% of social enterprises in Greater Manchester are reinvesting profits in the communities in which they operate.

Social enterprises in Greater Manchester also work across diverse sectors reflecting the communities that they serve to improve, ranging from manufacturing and agriculture to hospitality, finance, arts, construction, education, health and social care.

One fifth of social enterprises in Greater Manchester work to improve people’s health and wellbeing, another fifth work directly to support vulnerable people. 94% have at least one woman on their board, 18% have board members that are black or minority ethnic, 33% have disabled people on their board, and 63% of social enterprises have members of the local community on their board.

86% of social enterprises in the region also pay the real Living Wage (rather than the National Living Wage), which is far higher than the private sector and even higher than other social enterprises in the rest of the UK.

Lucy Danger, is CEO of social enterprise EMERGE Recycling (East Manchester Environment & Resources Group Emerge) who employ local people and volunteers. She sees it as vital to be accountable to the community.

Lucy said: “Our core mission is to make things better, environmentally, socially and economically, in East Manchester and beyond.

“Social enterprises are not only interested in making money, we want to do this, but in a properly sustainable way that is respectful of our planet, nature and people. It is in our DNA.

“EMERGE Recycling actively employs local people; we develop our people and strive to engage them in our decision making.

“Thanks to Covid-19, it continues to be a challenging time, but we are thankful for support from numerous funders to ‘build back better’ and that’s what we’re working to achieve.

“We are digitising whatever processes we can and in 2021 we are moving into a bigger, better HQ building which will be more fit for our purposes, we are also planning to invest in our fleet, with a Community Share Offer in December.”

Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise UK, added: “Greater Manchester has a long and proud history in social enterprise development. Entrepreneurs are becoming more and more conscious of how their businesses can build local economies and make improvement to communities and individual’s lives.

“The difference between traditional businesses and social enterprises is that social businesses use all their power and every opportunity to do good, including reinvesting profits back into their communities. This is woven into their DNA.

“This year has been a turbulent one for any business, but so many social enterprises have been at the heart of community responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and hundreds more have been started since it began. These businesses are playing a big part in keeping communities together and must lead the recovery in 2021.”

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