Praise for Bryson as turnover and staff levels hit a new high
Northern Ireland's biggest social enterprise has announced new business contracts worth £27.6m in the past year.
Bryson, which is also ranked third in the RBS Top 100 UK Social Enterprises, also reported turnover of £34m and an increase in employment levels of 5% to 693 staff from 660 in 2012.
Founded in 1906, with the objective of combating poverty, the organisation runs activities including skills development for school leavers and the unemployed, social care and an inner city water sports programme. Bryson Recycling is also Northern Ireland's largest provider of kerbside recycling services and recently won a new contract in Wales as well as opening a London office.
There are units in almost 40 locations across Northern Ireland, Wales and in the Republic of Ireland in Co Donegal.
The new figures were released at Bryson's annual conference in the Waterfront Hall in Belfast, where a enterprise expert described Bryson as an "exemplar" for the sector.
Caroline Mason, boss at social investment company Big Society Capital, also warned other charities to put more emphasis on sustainability rather than relying on subsidies.
Before joining Big Society Capital, Caroline was chief operating officer at Charity Bank and also the co-founder of Investing for Good, a social investment advisory firm. Before joining the social sector, she worked for Reuters. She also had her own consulting company, working with several financial institutions to develop new business and products including an electronic brokering service and a wealth management business for a private bank.
"One message that I wanted to deliver is that the social sector is really booming and growing and that it has huge potential to create a new type of social economy," she said. "But if the social sector is to be such a huge driver for growth, employment and change, businesses have to be sustainable in the long term, both financially and socially.
"If they do great work, but can't make enough money to invest in doing more great work, then they're not going to get anywhere.
"Bryson is an exemplar of how to do it and the more we have of the exemplars, the better.
"What they are doing is redefining business, they are looking at economic growth in a different way and are working with some of the most vulnerable people in society, yet also are bidding for and winning contracts alongside more commercial competitors."
Bryson chief executive John McMullan added that 91 pence in every pound is re-invested into the organisation.
"In the last year alone Bryson Futureskills has supported over 7,000 clients with a range of employment and training initiatives designed for school leavers, young adults and those living with long-term unemployment," he said.
"Bryson Care recently won the contract to deliver the early years programme for Children in Lisburn and Bangor. Bryson Care also deliver care for older people and in the last year they have provided nearly 170,000 hours of support in local communities.
"In keeping with our social enterprise model, every pound spent by the charity is re-invested into the services we provide and the development of those services."