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Conscious Consumerism & the impact upon social enterprises – report

In 2020, we launched a new ten-year strategy which sets out a vision for an ‘impact economy’. One of the features of an impact economy that we believe to be important is that consumers and businesses can purchase products and services from social enterprises. We have carried out research, building on the learning from SIS programmes to date, and set out several findings and recommendations that we will take into account as we strive for the impact economy vision.

The changing face of retail presents massive opportunities for social enterprises. At SIS, working with partners, we intend to support those organisations who want to develop their knowledge and understanding of retail to take advantage of this opportunity.


“According to Edelman’s ‘Brands Take a Stand’ report… borne out of a survey of 40,000 consumers, one in two people are now belief-driven buyers with 67% buying a brand for the first time because of its position on a controversial issue.”

Sustainable Marketing
Michelle Carvill, Gemma Butler and Geraint Evans, 2021

When originally discussing this research, in the early Autumn of 2021, 18 months into the world-changing coronavirus pandemic and pre-COP26, we could not have foreseen the rapidity at which the retail landscape would change. Perhaps propelled by the social events surrounding Glasgow’s COP26 or the ever-present social media live newsfeed, it became apparent that a change in behaviour towards responsible purchasing and sustainability was on the rise. As such, the research undertaken and subsequent work have become a de facto account of the changing attitudes of the UK retail marketplace.

The last four months have seen a race for retail businesses to become B-Corp accredited, a buzzword in the defence of greenwashing, with high-end fashion brands such as Chloé proudly displaying their credentials. As these upmarket retailers outsource specialists and finance change to meet the new customer requirements, the High Street sees further socioeconomic disparity, with brands such as Primark struggling to find solutions despite pledging to find recycled sources. (September 2021).

As we now look forward, where once this space would have been an opportunity for social enterprises to flourish, it now looks to be the case they are on the back foot, competing against global conglomerates for the retail pound. An ethos which was once synonymous with social enterprises is now becoming ubiquitous across retail.

These collated findings and recommendations will underline how to act to best support social enterprises, to harness opportunities now, and to prepare for the future to become agile and reactive to change.


Read the Research


Executive Summary


Full report