Social enterprises: lots of sympathy, but not many people buy from them

Press release -

Many Dutch citizens are sympathetic towards social enterprises. A large majority (66 percent) would in principle like to buy products or services from such enterprises. In practice, however, almost no one does so, according to research by ABN AMRO among more than 1,000 Dutch respondents. More than 10 percent of them said they occasionally bought a product or service from a social enterprise, but almost 40 percent never did so. Half the respondents reported that they had no idea whether or not they ever did this.

Social enterprise is gaining in popularity in the Netherlands. The main object of these businesses, or in some cases the reason for starting them, is to solve complex social problems. For example, they may work to combat climate change or to achieve equal opportunities on the labour market. Making a profit is not the most important driver. It is estimated that there are between 5,000 and 6,000 social enterprises in the Netherlands, and this number is growing steadily.


More than half the Dutch public (56 percent) are aware of the existence of social enterprises. Virtually the same proportion (58 percent) think it is important that these types of business exist. The fact that Dutch consumers make virtually no (conscious) use of them is probably because they do not know whether or not they are buying from a social enterprise. Almost 9 out of 10 people said they usually cannot tell whether or business is a social enterprise, and 80 percent have never seen a social enterprise online. Dutch consumers who do know whether or not a business is a social enterprise have generally found out by doing their own research on the Internet (49 percent).

Taking the trouble

Social enterprises need to be recognisable as such, according to a large majority of respondents in the survey. More than three-quarters (77 percent) would like it to be immediately clear that a business is a social enterprise. But most Dutch people report that they never take the trouble to investigate whether this is the case. Almost 9 out of 10 (87 percent) respondents say they do not take notice of whether a business is a social enterprise when buying a particular product or service.

Increasing social awareness of consumers

Eric Buckens, Director of the ABN AMRO Social Impact Fund, says: “Social enterprises are important for the future of the Netherlands, because they work to achieve solutions to complex social problems. They also generate economic growth, and that growth will undoubtedly continue in the years ahead, because consumers are becoming more and more socially aware. Making it easier to recognise and find social enterprises is crucial for that growth.”

Launch of The Good Search

On the initiative of ABN AMRO, Tuesday 13 December saw the launch of The Good Search, the first social search engine in the Netherlands. When a search instruction is entered in The Good Search, social enterprises are placed at the top of the results. The search engine thus makes social enterprises easier to find and more visible online.


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