Social Enterprise Gets Certified

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by WOW Talks on 03 August 2011

Research shows that 74% of customers would rather buy from a company that makes decisions based on concern for society and the environment. But how much do they really know about the social responsibility of their suppliers and business partners? Where is the measuring stick. Enter Social Enterprise Mark.

Until now, a bit of marketing spin on a website or design on a product gave one the warm and fuzzy feeling that their dosh was going to a good cause.

That’s all changed as companies can now get an official badge of approval, with the Social Enterprise Mark, the only certification authority for social enterprises.

It all started with RISE, an organisation that promotes social enterprises in South West England. A strategic leader for the sector, they uphold values such as credibility, accountability and trust in the businesses they count as members.

After having successfully piloted a Mark in their corner of the UK, they decided to partner with Social Enterprise Coalition to launch the Social Enterprise Mark on a national level.

It’s all well and good that a Mark has been created, but how stiff are the regulations for who gets in and who gets told to try harder?

The Government defines social enterprises as “businesses with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners.”

The Social Enterprise Mark has quantified this with strict guidelines that a company must adhere to in order to qualify, along with an independent Certification Panel that gives the final stamp of approval.

The company must have social and/or environmental aims, spend at least 50% of all profits on socially beneficial purposes, and if it ceased trading, remaining assets would be distributed for social/environmental purposes. 

These standards will not only serve to promote social enterprise in a larger business context, but also raise the bar for existing companies that would like to move into the social space by giving them solid benchmarks for achievement and purpose.

The Social Enterprise Mark is creating a network of businesses across the UK, which helps consumers vote with their wallets and promotes companies doing good for their communities who may also want to trade with each other. 

Nigel Kershaw of The Big Issue endorsed the Social Enterprise Mark: “The Big Issue was set up to find a business solution to the social crisis of homelessness. We are proud to be a social enterprise, proud to be part of a movement and the Social Enterprise Mark on our cover tells our readers just that.”

Ben Moss of Bristol Wood Recycling added: “The Social Enterprise Mark will help us when we are approaching private sector clients, such as construction companies. The Social Enterprise Mark will give them confidence that we are genuinely socially motivated. We see the Mark as key in identifying ourselves as unique and legitimate in a very competitive field.”