Social enterprises on world stage

International strategy to boost £1.68 billion sector’s profile.

Social enterprises will receive help to sell internationally and to build on the £1.68 billion contribution they already make to Scotland’s economy.

Recent statistics show there are more than 5,100 social enterprises in Scotland, with seven per cent collaborating internationally, and five per cent exporting their goods and services worldwide.

The first-ever international strategy for social enterprises will look to raise their profile worldwide by:

• Promoting Scotland as a world leader in social enterprise expertise, research and innovation
• Helping our social enterprises unlock new markets, boosting their sales and supporting our international development ambitions
• Enabling social enterprises to access global funding opportunities and specialist business support

The Scottish Government recognises the social enterprise model of business, where all profits are put back into a common good, is helping to tackle inequalities while increasing economic competitiveness.

Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities Angela Constance unveiled the strategy in front of an audience of representatives from South Korea, Thailand, Australia and Canada at the Social Enterprise Policy and Practice Conference.

She said:

“Scotland is already recognised as a world leader in its approach to social enterprises, with the sector creating jobs, offering training and services and contributing an incredible £1.68 billion to Scotland’s economy.

“This is an important chance to show off Scotland’s credentials as traders, find ways of attracting inward investment, and share expertise with markets at home and abroad.

“Social enterprises help to tackle inequalities and transform local communities, with a number of entrepreneurs already taking advantage of the opportunities of selling abroad. This new international strategy will help the sector build on these successes by encouraging our social enterprises to think globally and help them sell internationally.

“The strategy will boost Scotland’s reputation as an influential country that is leading the way in its approach to social enterprises and will show other countries how much we have to offer.”

Scotland’s support for social enterprise is internationally recognised and having hosted the world’s first Social Enterprise World Forum in 2008, plans are now being prepared to return the event to Scotland for its 10th anniversary in 2018.

Gerry Higgins, Chief Executive of CEIS (Community Enterprise in Scotland) said:

"An increasing number of Scottish social enterprises are trading internationally, and this strategy will boost overseas trading even further.

“Ventures like the Homeless World Cup and the overseas hubs of the Social Enterprise Academy bring the tradition of Scottish innovation into the global social enterprise movement.

“We are also seeing rural social enterprises, like Shetland Soap Company and Knockandoo Wool Mill, develop e-commerce platforms with support from SDI to further increase sales to Scottish diaspora and other international customers."

Notes to editors

Internationalising Social Enterprise – A Strategy for Scotland is available at:

The strategy was co-produced by the social enterprise sector and Scottish Government in partnership with Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Development International and the British Council.

Case studies

Shetland Soap Company has received support from SDI to internationalise with the innovation of new products, tourism to the islands and focus on e-commerce seeing sales rise throughout the UK and Europe.

The Social Enterprise Academy delivers learning and development programmes which have now reached learners in over 30 countries and has hubs developing in 10 locations around the world.

Grassmarket Community Project now sells tartan textiles and handmade products online to places as far afield as California and Shanghai.


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