This is an exciting time for social enterprise in Scotland.
At home, our social entrepreneurs are reimagining a more inclusive way of doing business, embracing change and finding new avenues towards social improvement. Internationally, Scotland is recognised as a world-leader in the field, and part of a growing global movement. With more than a decade of sustained investment in Scotland's eco-system of support for social enterprise, it's fair to say there has never been a better time to 'go social'. And with customers increasingly seeking out social enterprise products and services, I believe there exists huge opportunity to deliver truly transformational change for Scotland's communities, improving outcomes for all our people.
Social entrepreneurs are driven by an overriding passion to improve the world in which they live. Whether an individual's cause is rooted in their community, focussed on removing barriers to employment or seeking to tackle key environmental issues, collectively this determination to shape civic and economic life is as inspirational as it is powerful. Social enterprise not only delivers inclusive economic growth, it engenders a successful, vibrant democracy.
Of course, this more ethical way of doing business is not new in Scotland. We have a strong pedigree when it comes to socially responsible businesses. One immediately thinks of Robert Owen, the mill owner and social reformer at New Lanark who understood the importance of creating social good, as well as economic wealth. And this tradition continued in the 1970s with the growth of cooperatives and community businesses.
These moments in history, our history, have helped to pave the way for new forms of business, where social and economic goals are blended together in the pursuit of a fairer, more equal society. And I am thankful this passion lives. Scotland's first social enterprise census shows more than 200 new social enterprises start-up each year, joining the more than 5,000 already operating across the length and breadth of Scotland.
Leaders from across the public and third sector are increasingly recognising the value of social enterprise. The sector contributes £1.68 billion to our economy each and every year and supports more than 100,000 people in employment. And while this is truly impressive, the true value of social enterprise is so much more. Social enterprise has the potential to tackle some of the toughest social issues we face, and tackle them at source. To act as a mechanism for community empowerment, helping communities deal with issues they face. To provide a positive influence on the world of commerce, modelling a more ethical way of doing business. And, on top of all this, to help us become a more innovative, entrepreneurial society.
And so I am grateful to all those who have collaborated in the production of this important publication. This strategy sets the direction for Scotland's approach to social enterprise over the next decade by focussing on three priorities: stimulating the sector, developing stronger organisations and realising market opportunities. I am excited by the future and look forward to the full realisation of this dynamic, responsive, movement for change.
Cabinet Secretary for Communities,
Social Security and Equalities