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.”
As with all businesses, they compete to deliver goods and services. The difference is that social and environmental purposes are at the very heart of what they do, and the profits they make are reinvested towards achieving those purposes. Well known examples of social enterprises include the Eden Project, Big Issue and The Phone Co-op.
Social enterprises operate in almost every industry in the UK, from health and social care to renewable energy, from retail to recycling, from employment to sport, from housing to education. Whatever they do, they do it differently from typical business, because they are driven by a social and environmental mission, and they are focused on the community they serve.
There is no UK-wide, legal definition of a social enterprise, and organisations can just call themselves social enterprises if they choose. The Social Enterprise Mark is the only authority to assess and certify social enterprises, guaranteeing that profits or surpluses are used to improve society and protect the environment or ‘trading for people and planet’.
The Social Enterprise Mark proves when a social enterprise operates as one and protects its integrity.
If you’re a social enterprise, you can register for the Mark.
If you’re a customer, the Mark provides assurance that your social enterprise supplier is genuine. You can buy from guaranteed social enterprises.
If you’re a commissioner or procurement manager, you can use the Social Enterprise Mark as demonstration of social impact, particularly relevant with the implementation of the Public Services (Social Value) Act from January 2013, where public bodies should consider the social impact of suppliers. The Social Enterprise Mark guarantees that 50-100% of profits or surpluses are checked as being used for a social purpose. You can check the list of guaranteed social enterprises.