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From Coffee to Funerals, Ethical Firms Boom in The UK

From coffee beans helping poor farmers to affordable funeral services, British businesses that have a social impact have ballooned across a range of sectors, according to the top industry body as it unveiled the winners of its annual awards.

The number of social enterprises in Britain has jumped to 100,000 from 70,000 last year, according to Social Enterprise UK (SEUK).

The sector now employs two million people and contributes 60 billion pounds ($77 billion) to the world’s fifth largest economy – 150 percent higher than the previous estimate of 24 billion pounds.

“The trend is diversity. It demonstrates the strength of the sector in multiple markets in terms of being a serious part of the economy,” said Charlie Wigglesworth, the deputy chief executive of SEUK, in an interview.

“It’s not just one or two verticals where we’re doing well -it’s lots of areas and in lots of different ways,” he said as the group unveiled its annual awards recognising British social enterprises in 14 categories.

Cafedirect won the leading industry award for its resilience and impact as a business that has worked since 1991 to improve the lives of small coffee farmers.

“Part of the reason for Cafedirect winning is that it’s one of the best known brands in the sector, and lots of people who don’t know much about social enterprises buy Cafedirect products,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“It’s not only about rewarding bright, young people and ideas, but those who have been around a bit longer and have had to tough it out.”

Other winners included Caledonia Cremation, a funeral company that keeps costs down to prevent families falling into poverty or debt; Community Dental Services which treats marginalised groups in the country; and NOW Group, which helps people with autism gain access to jobs.

Britain has the world’s largest social enterprise sector, according to the UK government, which supports entrepreneurs seeking to provide sustainable help to vulnerable people by making a profit, instead of relying on grants like charities.

Earlier this year a survey by accounting firm Deloitte of more than 11,000 businesses and HR leaders found 86 percent of millennials think business success should be measured in terms of more than just financial performance.

By Lin Taylor @linnytayls, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith 

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