Social Responsibility and Sustainability

University supports social enterprises in Scotland

Nineteen social enterprises in Scotland received investment, support and mentorship from a socially responsible lending scheme co-funded by the University of Edinburgh.

Staff at Blankfaces posing in their fashion
Blankfaces is a fashion label aimed at ending homelessness

The social ventures were able to respond to the Covid-19 crisis by providing meals to high-risk individuals, supporting disabled beneficiaries, helping those experiencing homelessness into accommodation and providing online counselling.

Each social enterprise is being supported by the Power Up Scotland programme, a lending scheme managed by Big Issue Invest which offers investment, support and mentorship to early stage social ventures across Scotland.

In 2018, the University committed to invest £500,000 in the scheme, with further investment coming from four other partners: the Scottish Government, Aberdeen Standard Investments, Places for People, Experian and Brodies. 

The programme's Impact Report 2020 reveals that 19 social business have been supported to date with £870,000 of investment and pro-bono support exceeding 3,500 hours, helping the social enterprises to make a more positive social impact during a challenging year.

Eradicating homelessness with fashion

The Blankfaces was one of the 19 social enterprises that successfully completed the three-month Power Up Scotland Programme in 2020. The Blankfaces is the UK’s first fashion label aimed at eradicating homelessness. Each design is inspired or created by a homeless person, which forms the backbone of its clothing range. A percentage of every product sold goes directly back to the homeless participant who has shared their story, and 100 per cent of the profits go towards ending homelessness.

We are delighted to be a partner in the Power Up Scotland programme, as the combination of funding plus mentoring is a winning one for applicants. The University is committed to making a positive social impact and working with The Big Issue Invest and our partners in the programme has been very rewarding.

Dave GormanDirector for Social Responsibility and Sustainability, The University of Edinburgh

Improving wellbeing using fitness and food

Alumni Aayush Goyal and Karis Gill set up Social Stories Club
Alumni Aayush Goyal and Karis Gill set up Social Stories Club

Other social enterprises supported by the programme include Projekt42, the UK’s first wellness centre to combine personal training, group fitness, yoga and mental health services and Scran Academy which works to improve the lives of disadvantaged young people through a cooking school. Both ventures are based in Edinburgh.

John Loughton, Director at Scran Academy, said: “After going through the programme ourselves, we merged with Power Up Scotland alumni, Prep Table, during Covid. The core partnership helped pioneer a citywide food operation, the Scran Meals Programme, that has so far produced and delivered around 150,000 meals to around 3,500 residents across Edinburgh supported by 250 keyworker volunteers. We’re proud to have continued our core programmes for youth work and wellbeing support for over 20 individuals. ”  

Social Stories Club: an alumni success story

Ethical gift company Social Stories Club was set up by two Edinburgh alumni and produces socially conscious gift boxes where every product inside has a unique story of social change.

Director Karis Gill said: “Power Up has been amazing for us as it has pushed us to the next stage. We’ve been paired up with mentors and had the most phenomenal expertise and insight into the corporate market. For a small business, this has been truly invaluable.”

Find out more

The approach the University takes to responsible investment is rooted in its focus on social and civic responsibility, and a vision to make the world a better place.

Power Up Scotland Impact Report 2020

Responsible Investment at the University