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. 

Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise UK, said: “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.”

Meet the social enterprises that are changing the way business is done in Greater Manchester 

Sara Auty – SAZ MEDIA


Sara Auty set up SAZ MEDIA, a film and photography social enterprise in Stockport, to provide services to local businesses and individuals, alongside providing workshops to up-skill and enrich local communities with a focus on supporting young people. 

Sara has seen it as a priority to maintain her social mission through the pandemic as well as trading.

She said: “Being a social enterprise means you put purpose before profit. That is not to say we do not make a considerable contribution to the local economy, but we also really care about the people in our communities.

“The kids that I work with depend on it. We do free photography and film workshops, and over the summer we held a photography trail to keep contact with young people, most of whom have additional needs and have told me through lockdown they had struggled and had suicidal thoughts, so it had to be done.

“Being a social enterprise is all about being adaptable, balancing trading with community impact. It is extremely rewarding when you strike the right balance.”

Lucy Danger – EMERGE


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.”

Sheila Murtagh – Salford Credit Union


Social enterprise, Salford Credit Union, which has 3,800 members across the city, has made £1million available to lend to local people in need of affordable credit due to the pandemic, who may otherwise turn to high-cost lenders.

Salford has joined forces with seven other credit unions across Greater Manchester to launch the Covid-19 recovery plan collectively offering a total of £15m in financial support to millions of people across Greater Manchester.

Sheila Murtagh, chief executive of Salford Credit Union, said: “Being a social enterprise means that we always put people at the heart of everything we do. This recovery plan is a great example of that. We want to be a part of rebuilding our communities, supporting our people and lend responsibly. This will also provide a vital boost to our local economy.

“We want to encourage anyone who is struggling financially due to the impact of Covid to speak to us or their community credit union about their borrowing needs. By supporting local people and offering them credit, it will increase spending and keep our economy moving forward, helping all of us to build back better from the impacts being felt by our communities across Greater Manchester due to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Marian Milling – True Colours


True Colours, a support service for people with autism, learning disabilities and mental health, is headed up by Marian Milling, with business partner Michelle Campbell.

It currently employs 32 staff members from within the local area that it serves, working in partnership with the Job Centre. This partnership has enabled them to provide those who have been long term unemployed the opportunity of 8-week work experience placements. And 60% of the staff team have been employed through this scheme.

The organisation has also created a new service ‘Employable Me‘ that supports vulnerable independent people into paid employment. And in June this year, it won a Queens Award for Voluntary Services.

Marian said: “We enable people to try new experiences and opportunities, develop and build new skills to meet individuals needs and abilities.

“From the start we felt it was important to be part of the community and to be able to put something back from the work we do.

“Through being set up as a social enterprise, it has enabled us to be more flexible and creative with the services we provide to the community.

“Using and purchasing local services boosts the local economy, especially in areas of low economic growth, it also boosts staff’s self-esteem and confidence knowing we are all playing a part to make our communities better places to live in and have a sense of pride and belonging. Our surplus income is reinvested back into the Wigan borough and that is something to be proud of.”

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