Mark Hoskyns-Abrahall: Proud of global role in social change

Scotland and Northern Ireland'play in the Homeless World Cup. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Scotland and Northern Ireland'play in the Homeless World Cup. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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Ten years ago this autumn a financial crisis took a grip of the world, leading to a downturn in the global economy from which we are only now beginning to recover on a meaningful level.

From collapses and closures to quantitative easing and bail-outs, the response to the crash was unprecedented; it changed business culture and societal attitudes.

As more people required help in making ends meet, it also acted as a catalyst for the rise of the social enterprise movement, which has spent the last decade moving from the fringes of the business community to a more mainstream role.

And next week, from 12-14 September, the three-day Social Enterprise World Forum returns to the city where it all began ten years ago, Edinburgh.

Since that event in 2008, social enterprises have worked their way into the psyche of the consumer, through the admirable efforts of dedicated entrepreneurs and tens of thousands of staff and volunteers across the world.

While social enterprises have existed for centuries – Aberdeen’s Glencraft was founded in 1843 – today they are truly a global phenomenon. Since that first Forum, it has visited Melbourne, San Francisco, Rio de Janeiro and Hong Kong, among other great cities.

From its beginnings the event aimed to bring together social enterprise leaders and champions from all continents to collaborate, share best practice and plan future developments.

Across Scotland we have some incredible social enterprises, from Street Soccer Scotland, which has helped improve the mental health of homeless people through football, to Brewgooder, which is helping deliver clean water to people in Malawi.

In the words of former cabinet secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities, Angela Constance, who last year launched Scotland’s Social Enterprise Strategy, “Social entrepreneurs are driven by an overriding passion to improve the world in which they live.”

Another thing these enterprises have in common is the dedication and vision of their founders, and this is something that all business leaders should be inspired and driven by. These enterprises have a clear purpose, and over the next three days I’m excited to hear what social entrepreneurs from across the world have to say about this growing cultural movement.

In Scotland there are now more than 5,600 social enterprises, with around 10 per cent of those formed in the past two years. This is a vibrant sector, adding around £2 billion in value to the Scottish economy.

Not only are these enterprises doing great things for those in need, they are setting an example for big business to follow: almost two-thirds are operated by women and the earnings ratio of the lowest paid staff to the highest paid is just 1:2.5.

At PwC we’re taking action to empower communities by supporting social entrepreneurs to create sustainable businesses that enhance social mobility. And we’re backing this as headline sponsor of the Social Enterprise World Forum this year, an event we’ve supported for seven years.

Social enterprise has been a key part of our community strategy for more than a decade. In addition to our social enterprise hub in London, we have a social entrepreneurs club which includes 35 Scottish enterprises, covering everything from cycling and football to food and drink, hospitality and co-working spaces.

The purpose of this club is to help its members grow businesses and increase their societal impact, in line with global Sustainable Development Goals. These goals were set in 2015 by the United Nations and 193 countries, who agreed to deliver 17 global goals underpinned by 169 specific targets by 2030, in order “to achieve a thriving society in a thriving environment”.

With “reducing inequalities” and “decent work and economic growth” listed amongst the goals, it’s clear that social enterprise can make a substantial contribution to achieving them.

For Edinburgh to play such a vital role in this by welcoming back the Social Enterprise World Forum, ten years bigger and better, is something we should all take immense pride in.

Mark Hoskyns-Abrahall is Edinburgh office senior partner at PwC