The rise of ethical consumerism: considering the impact of purchase decisions

Although it is heartening to see that consumers are increasingly looking at sustainability and ethical issues in their purchasing decisions, as evidenced by a recent international study by Unilever, I do worry about whether they are actually able to make an informed decision.  The proliferation of ‘greenwashing’ does mask and make buying decisions more confusing.

Greenwashing is the corporate practice of using clever PR and marketing claims to mislead customers into thinking a company and its products are ethical/sustainable/environmentally friendly etc. Sadly, the rise in consumer interest in sustainability and ethics seems to be marked by the rise of this tactic by big corporate brands.

This is a smoke screen for their anti-social behaviour, as has been evidenced time and again in the hypocrisy of the banking world.  I will never forget, on the passing of the Public Services (Social Value) Act, being lectured about what to do to add social value by a big name High Street bank, whose Chief Executive the week before had been apologising for yet another expose leading to huge fines by the regulator.

Another very high profile example is the Volkswagen ‘Dieselgate’ emissions scandal in 2015, where the organisation admitted fitting cars with software designed to give false readings in emissions tests. This served as a public reminder of the need to be vigilant for misleading messages – if a multinational giant that was once considered a leader in sustainability was deliberately deceiving customers, then it poses the question – who else is up to this dodgy practice??

Unfortunately, greenwashing isn’t always easy to spot, especially where there is an existing high level of consumer trust within a brand. Even where there isn’t trust, many consumers take claims at face value and do not question other behaviours of that company – people have short memories! There are so many ethical labels and claims used by brands to entice customers to buy their products, so where to start for consumers when it comes to knowing who they can trust?

This is the focus of our latest campaign – Beyond the Badge – which aims to help consumers identify genuine labels and claims, and therefore make more informed choices, rather than taking things at face value.  For instance if a product claims to be ‘fairtrade’ – did you realise that it is only certified as such if it displays the FairTrade Mark?

We are pleased to have the support of several high-profile partners, including Soil Association Certification and Ethical Consumer, to engage with a wider consumer audience across multiple sectors.

In our research , I was interested to come across the UL Environment ‘Seven sins of greenwashing’, which identifies seven of the most common greenwashing tactics used by big brands. Interestingly, these include ‘the sin of no proof’ – where a claim is not substantiated with any reliable proof – and ‘the sin of worshipping false labels’ – where the impression is given of a third-party endorsement, where no such thing exists.

To me, these seem particularly relevant to the markets in which we operate, as from its inception, social enterprise has been plagued with vagueness and moving the goal posts.  The advent of social impact reporting and social investment have not helped this cause as they do not support the uniqueness of the social enterprise business model – essentially that by putting people and planet before shareholder profit the business is focused on the social/environmental need that it aims to address.  It may be hard to prove – but the social outcomes are central, not a by-product.  Hence the Social Enterprise Mark – a way of assessing and identifying genuine social enterprises that have a proven commitment to trading for the benefit of people and planet.

We want to encourage everyone to consider the potential impact of their purchase decisions, and to think about whether brands that they support are actually living up to their ethical and sustainability claims. I invite you to get involved, by pledging your support to the campaign and spreading the word amongst your own networks, by joining our Thunderclap campaign, which will send an automated social media post out from your account to create a buzz of conversation about the campaign.

Social Enterprise Mark CIC 2016 Stakeholder Survey Report

Many thanks to all Social Enterprise Mark/Gold Mark holders and other stakeholders who took time to participate in our 2016 stakeholder survey.

We have now analysed the responses and are pleased to publish our Stakeholder Survey Report, which summarises the impact that Social Enterprise Mark/Gold Mark accreditation currently has for those that hold the Mark, and how we might increase this impact moving forward.

The report contains headline findings and statistics from the survey, including:

  • Impact of the Mark
  • Wider influence of the Mark
  • Benefits of accreditation

The feedback is invaluable in helping us to continue to develop the Social Enterprise Mark and Gold Mark to meet the evolving needs of the growing and diversifying social enterprise sector, and will be used to inform our strategic priorities and future direction.

If you have any comments or questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch.













Challenging consumers to look ‘beyond the badge’

Social Enterprise Mark CIC has partnered with several well-respected standard setting and accreditation bodies to encourage consumers to challenge ethical labels and sustainability claims that are used by brands they buy from.

With recent studies* suggesting that sustainability issues are playing an increasing role in consumer purchase decisions, the new campaign aims to educate consumers about ways they can identify genuine labels and claims, and therefore make more informed choices. Working with fellow accreditation bodies Golf Environment Organization, Living Wage Foundation, Soil Association Certification and TrustMark, and also Ethical Consumer, a key player in the ethical consumer movement, Social Enterprise Mark CIC hopes to get consumers thinking more about the labels and badges that appear on the products they buy, and to find out what they actually mean.

Lucy Findlay, Managing Director of Social Enterprise Mark CIC explains the motives behind the campaign: “With the practice of greenwashing now commonplace in consumer markets, we feel it is really important for consumers to challenge what brands are telling them and not just accept their claims at face value.”

“That is why we have developed this campaign – to educate and support consumers to question the validity of ethical claims, to enable them to identify those that actually have some substance. We are pleased to have the support of several high-profile partners, to engage with a wider consumer audience across multiple sectors.”

Director of Ethical Consumer Tim Hunt, explains their reasons for getting involved: “We are pleased to support the ‘Beyond the Badge’ campaign, as a timely reminder of the need to question the real meaning behind the logos, symbols and standards on the products we buy. As time-poor consumers we often rely on what companies tell us, as to how sustainable and ethical a product or service is. In a ‘greenwash-rich’ world we very much encourage shoppers to ask tough questions of producers and retailers, to ensure they reflect our values and are deserving of our custom.”

The campaign calls on consumers to look ‘beyond the badge’, to find out more about ethical claims, and to look for any evidence or proof to support such claims. Social Enterprise Mark CIC has put together some useful tips to support consumers to cut through the “greenwash” to identify genuine labels and claims. One way that is suggested is to look out for a symbol of accreditation, which has been independently assessed and awarded by a third party. Social Enterprise Mark CIC and the campaign partners believe that accreditation and certification is vital in engendering consumer trust in brands, as it provides visible proof of an organisations sustainability credentials.

As explained by Clare McDermott, Business Development Director of Soil Association Certification, “Trust is a major issue for consumers; our research last summer found this to be the biggest influencer on purchasing behaviour and accreditation and certification is the best way to guarantee trust and reassure people.  We’re really pleased to be supporting Beyond the Badge the campaign as the UK’s leading organic and ethical certification body, to help make sure people know what they are buying and to expose greenwashing and false claims.”

This is a sentiment echoed by Libi Newell, Communications Manager at Golf Environment Organization “Credibility should be at the centre of any meaningful standard and certification system. That has been the case with GEO Certified® from the very start; it’s transparency and independent verification has been instrumental in it becoming a trusted mark with a strong reputation. Because of this it provides value to golf clubs, and the golf industry demonstrating real commitment and positive impact. We are pleased to be involved with this campaign, to promote credible certification and support consumers to make informed purchase decisions, and to know they are buying from businesses they can trust.”

Social Enterprise Mark CIC and the campaign partners urge consumers to pledge their support to the campaign, and to get involved by spreading the word on social media. There is also a Thunderclap that people can join, where a message will be posted at the same time from hundreds of social media accounts, to create a buzz of conversation about our new scheme.

People are also encouraged to keep an eye out for examples of greenwashing and to share these on social media, using the campaign hashtag #GoBeyondTheBadge. Full information can be found at


* Unilever study of 20,000 adults from five countries revealed one third (33%) of consumers are now buying from brands based on their social and environmental impact. The study asked how sustainability concerns impact choices in-store and at home. Crucially, it then mapped their claims against real purchase decisions, giving a more accurate picture than ever of what people are buying – and why.

Social UP – design thinking for social enterprises

We are excited to be involved in a new EU co-funded project, which aims to improve the sustainability, social impact and scalability of social enterprises, to enable them to achieve their societal mission in a financially viable manner.

Social UP is an EU co-funded project under the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union, with the aim to cultivate design thinking in social enterprises, well-adapted to their own needs, to support them to scale up their operations.

The project will design, develop and implement a design thinking-based training material, providing the necessary knowledge and tools to support and motivate design thinking within social enterprises in order for them to grow, scale–up and prosper.

Our main role in the project is to conduct desk research and consultation on the development of the field guide. We will also be hosting an event towards the end of the project in 2018, to present the completed field guide and report on the main findings of the project.

We are working in partnership with design thinking experts, social entrepreneurs, and business advisers from across Europe (UK, Greece, Finland, Spain and Cyprus). The team has complementary experience and expertise in the fields of design thinking process and training, business education and training, entrepreneurial education and guidance, business consulting and social entrepreneurship, technical development of support tools, combining research with market and technical knowledge.

To find out more about the project, please visit the Social UP website.

Celebrating social enterprises ‘Making a Mark’

Following the success of the Making a Mark competition last year, which celebrated the vast impact that accredited social enterprises make through their diverse activities, we have decided to repeat the competition this year.

L-R: Laura Burns (LWTC), Mark Sharman (Help&Care), Mark Cotton FRSA, Mona Karraoui (GEO), Gareth Hart (Iridescent Ideas)

The Making a Mark competition highlights examples of how accredited social enterprises are creating considerable social impact within their local communities and in wider society and the environment. In 2016, Help & Care were named as winners, with Llanwrtyd Wells Community Transport as the runner up.

The winner will be announced at a special reception at our annual conference (in Winchester) on 5th June 2017.

We will shortly be deciding a shortlist of finalists from our network of Social Enterprise Mark/Gold Mark holders, based on the social impact statements and any relevant reports that were submitted at their most recent renewal (between March 2016 and February 2017).

Social Enterprise Mark/Gold Mark holders are invited to update this information for consideration in the competition – if you would like to do so, please submit new statements and any relevant reports to Lara Wylie by the end of February.

This year, we have kept the criteria deliberately broad. Whilst we will take account of how carefully Mark Holders have measured their social impact and can show how income has been used to maximise this, we are also interested in how succinctly they have described their achievements in this regard and what sort of story these tell about the kind of social enterprise they are.

The shortlist, decided by the Social Enterprise Mark CIC team, will be announced at the start of April, when it will go to a public vote, which will account for 50% of the final result, with the vote of the independent Certification Panel accounting for the other 50%.

Further expansion of our international network

As a global champion of social enterprise standards and the body responsible for the only internationally available social enterprise accreditation, we are delighted to have recently expanded our international network of accredited social enterprises, representing a five-fold increase within 2 years.

nappNetwork of Asia and Pacific Producers Limited (NAPP), part of the the global Fairtrade organisation, working to secure a better deal for farmers and workers in Asia and Pacific, has recently been awarded the fifth international Social Enterprise Mark. NAPP joins the global Fairtrade certification body FLOCERT, along with AUARA (Spain), C3 (UAE), and Northdoc (Ireland) in the growing network of organisations outside the UK accredited with the Social Enterprise Mark, proving a commitment to trading for the benefit of people and planet.

We have a proven international assessment process that can be applied anywhere in the world. We also offer an international consultancy service to advise global counterparts looking to set up similar accreditation schemes for social enterprise within their own countries.

By offering an alternative approach to trade, Fairtrade supports producers in securing better markets, contributing to greater sustainable development in the Asia Pacific region. NAPP certifies farmers and workers across this region, all of whom share ownership of the Fairtrade system and have an equal voice in decision making. As a Producer Network, NAPP ensures their voice is heard in the system.

“Fairtrade Network of Asia and Pacific Producers is delighted to be accredited with the Social Enterprise Mark” says Ayan A. Banerjee, CEO of NAPP.

“We look forward to the collaboration and are confident that it will further our mission of providing fairer terms of trade to our producers in the Asia and Pacific region. Fairtrade strengthens the position of farmers and workers in the value chain, and by being part of the international social enterprise network, we can help better serve our producer network.”

Lucy Findlay, Managing Director of Social Enterprise Mark CIC, said “We are delighted to welcome NAPP as our newest international Social Enterprise Mark holder. It is exciting to now be working with two organisations within the internationally recognised Fairtrade movement. NAPP are fulfilling an important role, working to secure a better deal for farmers and workers in Asia and the Pacific.”

“With the UK recognised as a pioneer in the social enterprise business model, we are proud to act as a global champion of credible standards for social enterprise, and are encouraged to see our network continuing to expand across international borders. We are the world pioneers of social enterprise accreditation; ours was the first Mark of this kind for social enterprises, and in welcoming NAPP as a Social Enterprise Mark Holder, we look forward to exploring how we may be able to further recognise and promote social enterprise best practice in this region and beyond.”

Please click here to find out more about our work as a global champion of social enterprise.

We are moving!

On Thursday 24th November 2016, Social Enterprise Mark CIC will moving into office space at the HQ Business Centre, managed by Social Enterprise Mark holder Millfields Trust.

Millfields-trust-1Millfields Trust provides a platform to enable small and medium sized business to grow and develop. The Trust was set up to enable local people to contribute and manage the regeneration of the Stonehouse neighbourhood in Plymouth. They do this by focusing on job creation and the development of business.

We are delighted to be joining the business community at Millfields, which includes Mark holder Iridescent Ideas.

lucy-and-rogerAs Lucy Findlay, Managing Director of Social Enterprise Mark CIC explains: “We are really pleased to be moving to the Millfields Trust. Not only are they a long standing Social Enterprise Mark holder, but they are an important hub for social enterprise activity in the city, supporting the regeneration of Stonehouse in Plymouth.

“We look forward to meeting lots of like-minded people and making a whole set of new connections in the Millfields business community.”

Roger Pipe, Chief Executive at Millfields Trust echoes Lucy’s words: “We are delighted to welcome Social Enterprise Mark CIC to the Millfields tenant community. Having such a prestigious organisation with us helps lift the work of the Trust and the family of businesses it supports. We hope they have a long and happy stay”

The new address for all postal correspondence will be:

Unit 30 HQ Business Centre

237 Union Street

Plymouth PL1 3HQ

The helpline number will remain the same – 0345 504 6536.

Please note – we are likely to be unavailable for most of the day on 24th November, but will aim to respond to all calls and emails as soon as we possibly can after this time. Normal operations should commence by Monday 28th November.

Growing consumer appetite for brands with social purpose

we-logo-colorUK consumers, especially the younger generation, would pay more for products/services with a clear social purpose, according to a recent report from communications agency WE.

The report, based on a a study of 2,000 UK consumers by YouGov, showed a growing consumer appetite for organisations that demonstrate a social purpose and how they are having a positive impact on society.

The key findings include:

  • UK consumers would pay on average 10% more for a product/service if they think it would have a positive impact on society
  • 40% of consumers already regard sustainability as important when making purchase decisions
  • The younger generation is more prepared than any other age groups to support ‘better’ products/services

SE_BRAND_APPROVED_RGBThis represents an opportunity for social sector organisations to reach a growing number of ‘socially-minded’ consumers by articulating and communicating their social purpose and the benefits they create for society and the environment.

By applying for Social Enterprise Mark accreditation, you can prove the positive impact your business creates, and promote your credentials as an independently guaranteed social enterprise, committed to trading for the good of people and planet.

Response to Big Lottery Fund Consultation

We recently submitted a response to a public consultation from the Cabinet Office, which is seeking opinions on proposed new policy directions for the allocation of Big Lottery Funds in England, Isle of Man and UK-wide funding programmes.

Big Lottery Fund (BLF) receives 40% of the £1.8 billion ‘good causes’ money generated through the National Lottery each year. This amounts to around £700 million annually to improve lives throughout the UK. It is the single largest funder of UK civil society. Ministers issue all lottery distributors with policy directions, setting out the priorities they must take into account when distributing this money. This consultation is seeking views on the proposed new policy directions for BLF.

As the guardians of social enterprise standards, we feel strongly that organisations that have proven their commitment to creating social value should be given higher visibility in the policy direction priorities. Social enterprise is a form of business that creates lasting sustainability through its business approach, and is dedicated to maximising the social value derived from investment, above that of shareholder profit.  One suggestion we made in our response was that the Social Enterprise Mark could help identify these businesses, as proven and independently guaranteed social enterprises.

Below is a summary of the key messages contained in our response to the consultation.

BLF should not:

  • fund social entrepreneurs and social business that do not have:
    • clear social mission
    • an asset lock commitment
    • a restriction on profit distribution
  • fund projects that do not have a rigorous and realistic business plan, to provide long term sustainability
  • use valuable resources to prop up failing social investment initiatives

BLF should:

  • have a strong message about supporting social enterprises that can demonstrate true financial and long term sustainability – income generation by supported projects should be encouraged
  • support awardees to demonstrate, promote and market their whole social impact more widely than just for their own lottery funding
  • should accept earned and in kind income as match funding sources from the grant recipient itself
  • encourage as wide an impact as possible and give consideration to an international dimension, not limited to exchange of good practice but also wider commercial and partnership opportunities

We feel there is much scope for Social Enterprise Mark accreditation to be utilised in assessing requirements for the distribution of BLF funds.

The consultation is open until Friday 12th August. For more information and to respond, please visit the Cabinet Office website.

Working in partnership with Social Enterprise Mark holders

Iridescent IdeasWe are pleased to announce that Social Enterprise Mark CIC has been confirmed as a new partner of the Forerunner Prize, which was launched in May by Social Enterprise Mark holder Iridescent Ideas.

The Forerunner Prize is aimed at budding social entrepreneurs looking to do exciting things with technology. The winner will receive a a £5,000 prize package to help them develop a tech led social enterprise idea. The partnership with Social Enterprise Mark CIC will help the successful winner create a strong social enterprise. Our MD Lucy Findlay will also be part of the judging panel deciding on the winner.

Social Enterprise Mark CIC joins existing partners Francis Clark, Tribe Media, and fellow Social Enterprise Mark holder University of St Mark & St John.

Paul Read, Director of Iridescent Ideas said: “We are delighted that a prestigious company of internationally standing and credibility such as the Social Enterprise Mark CIC is backing The Forerunner Prize.”

“Their knowledge, networks and experience will be invaluable in developing this prize and supporting the successful applicant.”

Lucy Findlay, Managing Director of Social Enterprise Mark said: “​Social Enterprise Mark CIC is excited to be supporting Iridescent Ideas with the Forerunner Prize, to promote social enterprise as a business solution to tackling social and/or environmental issues.”

“The Forerunner Prize will enable budding social entrepreneurs who have a tech-led solution to existing social challenges to develop their idea and have a positive impact on society.”

“Iridescent Ideas itself is an accredited social enterprise, awarded the Social Enterprise Mark – proof that it is committed to creating benefits for people and the planet.  As the guardians of credible standards for social enterprise, we are delighted to be working in partnership with Iridescent Ideas and other local organisations to provide specialist support and guidance to the award winner.”

The Forerunner Prize is open to applications until September 2nd 2016. For more information, and to apply, please visit the Forerunner Prize website.

Recognising excellence in social enterprise

York St John University and health and social care services provider SEQOL have become the latest organisations to be awarded the internationally recognised Social Enterprise Gold Mark for their commitment to social enterprise excellence.

Gold Marks_York St John and SEQOLWe invited former Cabinet Office Minister Phil Hope to officially present both organisations with the Social Enterprise Gold Mark at the organisation’s conference in Salford on 8th June. The presentation formed part of an awards reception, celebrating the vast and diverse achievements of our accredited social enterprises.

The Social Enterprise Gold Mark offers enhanced accreditation to social enterprises wishing to demonstrate their excellence, assessing three essential areas of business operations:

  • Governance
  • Business ethics
  • Financial transparency

York St John University and SEQOL join existing Gold Mark holders Integrated Care 24, John Taylor Hospice, and University of Salford, in the exclusive network of ‘Gold standard’ social enterprises, demonstrating an ongoing commitment to social enterprise excellence.

Professor Karen Stanton, Vice Chancellor at York St John University said: “York St John University is delighted and honoured to have been awarded the Social Enterprise Gold Mark. This much-coveted accreditation is only given to those organisations who can demonstrate they are making a real difference to their community and the environment.

“We are one of only a few universities in the UK to have achieved this status and I am deeply grateful that the hard work and dedication of the York St John teams involved have been recognised in such a positive way.”

Katie Taylor-Neale, Head of Communications at SEQOL said: “Being a social enterprise has always been an important part of our identity within SEQOL – and we are proud to be an accredited Social Enterprise Mark holder.”

“To now be awarded the Gold Mark is really special and provides even further reassurance to people we work with that our innovative health and social care services are underpinned by clear business ethics.”

Lucy Findlay, Managing Director of Social Enterprise Mark CIC, added: “We are delighted to award these two Social Enterprise Gold Marks, which are both very well deserved.”

“York St John University is only the second university to have achieved this challenging social enterprise accreditation. The university is clearly committed to providing a great student experience for learners from all different backgrounds, and the management team and staff also share a very strong sense of social purpose.”

“SEQOL places emphasis on employee engagement through voluntary employee ownership; employees are allowed the choice to purchase shares. Over 60% of employees have chosen to be shareholders – an impressive level of engagement for an employer of SEQOL’s size.”

“The assessment of both these organisations revealed that where you have a workforce that is so clearly enthused by its social purposes and how they contribute to this, there can be no greater strength to being a successful social enterprise. Well done to all concerned.”

Social Enterprise Mark CIC is the UK and international accreditation body responsible for assessing applications for the Social Enterprise Mark and Social Enterprise Gold Mark. We ensure the social enterprise business model remains ethical, credible and commercial through accreditation.

The Social Enterprise Gold Mark provides a route to social enterprise excellence. The Gold Mark offers enhanced accreditation to social enterprises which can show best practice in proof points across key business areas, including financial transparency and business ethics. It is a business development tool that sets benchmarks and an action plan for continuous improvement.

Please click here for more information an the Social Enterprise Gold Mark.

New look for Social Enterprise Mark accreditation

We are excited to unveil a new look for Social Enterprise Mark CIC and our accreditation Marks – the Social Enterprise Mark and the Social Enterprise Gold Mark.

New logos

Look out for these Marks as a sign of social enterprise credibility

Our objective in creating these new designs was to more clearly demonstrate/communicate the status of those displaying the Marks as proven and accredited social enterprises, guaranteed to be trading for the benefit of people and planet.

We have also created a new identity for Social Enterprise Mark CIC, as the guardians of credible social enterprise standards. We feel that the new logo clearly reflects our mission: “To assure the social enterprise business model remains ethical, credible and commercial through accreditation.”

gammarayIt was a pleasure to work with Troy Woodhouse of Plymouth-based creative agency Gammaray Creative in designing the new look for the organisation. Gammaray Creative has a strong social mission to make a difference to people less fortunate, and follow a simple mantra; “Take your talent and pass it on”.


We will be rolling out the new logos gradually over the summer and all Social Enterprise Mark and Gold Mark holders will receive the new versions to proudly display their status as an accredited social enterprise, independently guaranteed to be creating benefits for people and planet.

To request a copy of any of the new designs, please email or call our helpline on 0345 504 6536. We look forward to hearing feedback on the new look.

Social Enterprise Mark holders working together to add social value

Social Enterprise Mark holders Cosmic and Pluss have worked closely together for several years, through project work, development of a new Pluss website and, most recently, the creation of a new video to showcase the outcomes for clients that Pluss have supported into finding employment.

The objective was to produce a video that created real emotions, which was achieved using a number of techniques, including using upbeat, optimistic music to create a positive atmosphere to the video, and showing the case study clients smiling and proactively interacting with others. Incorporating positive words from those that work with each of Pluss’ clients also added to the optimism of the video.

Cosmic filmed over several days at a variety of locations, to capture the stories of a number of Pluss’ clients and their employers, to produce a final video (shown below) that showcased their individual stories, difficulties and the positive outcomes of finding employment.

Feedback from Pluss was exceptionally positive – Geraldine Scott-Smith, Communications and Public Affairs Manager, said; “Quite simply, I love it. I think you have done an amazing job – you just seemed to get what I wanted and have been a pleasure to work with too.”

For more information on this project, please visit the Cosmic website.

Help & Care named Making a Mark competition winners

Dorset based charity Help & Care was named as the winner of the Social Enterprise Mark CIC ‘Making a Mark’ competition at a celebration at our recent conference in Salford. They were presented with a special award, created for us by Rowan, an arts centre and charity for learning disabled people.

The Making a Mark competition was a celebration of the vast and diverse social benefits created by Social Enterprise Mark holders, and highlighted interesting examples of how accredited social enterprises are creating considerable social impact within their local communities and in wider society.

Mark Sharman accepting awardOn accepting the award, Mark Sharman, CEO of Help & Care, said  “We were both surprised and delighted to receive this award because it is not a recognition of what we do or how we do it.  It is about the most important thing which is what impact are we having on the lives of people and communities.  It is a recognition of our great staff and volunteer team who live our values to make a difference.”

Lucy Findlay, Managing Director of Social Enterprise Mark CIC, said, “We are delighted to announce the long standing Social Enterprise Mark holder Help & Care as the ‘Making a Mark’ competition winners.  They won because they not only help people who want something different and better out of life, they can also demonstrate clearly how they are making a difference to people’s lives.  Well done to Mark and his team.”

Selected from over a network of over 200 accredited social enterprises, Help & Care was shortlisted alongside 6 other organisations, including Golf Environment Organization and Iridescent Ideas. Following a public vote and a separate vote by the independent Certification Panel (both accounting for 50% of the final result), the result was a close call, with not much to seperate all the well deserving finalists. We therefore decided to announce a runner up – this was awarded to Welsh community transport provider Llanwrtyd Wells Community Transport.

We invited Mark Cotton FRSA to present the award, and he commended all the finalists on their achievements and congratulated them on making the shortlist, before presenting certificates to all the finalists who were in attendance at the conference.

L-R: Laura Burns (LWTC), Mark Sharman (Help&Care), Mark Cotton FRSA, Mona Karraoui (GEO), Gareth Hart (Iridescent Ideas)

L-R: Laura Burns (LWTC), Mark Sharman (Help&Care), Mark Cotton FRSA, Mona Karraoui (GEO), Gareth Hart (Iridescent Ideas)

We would like to extend our congratulations to all of the competition finalists:

  • ShortlistCockpit Arts
  • Eden Project
  • Golf Environment Organization
  • Help & Care
  • Iridescent Ideas
  • Llanwrtyd Wells Community Transport
  • Work West


Making a Mark Competition

At a special award reception at our annual conference on 8th June 2016, we announced the winner of our Making a Mark competition, celebrating the vast and diverse social benefits created by Social Enterprise Mark holders. The competition highlighted examples of how accredited social enterprises are creating considerable social impact within their local communities and in wider society.

L-R: Laura Burns (LWTC), Mark Sharman (Help&Care), Mark Cotton FRSA, Mona Karraoui (GEO), Gareth Hart (Iridescent Ideas)

L-R: Laura Burns (LWTC), Mark Sharman (Help&Care), Mark Cotton FRSA, Mona Karraoui (GEO), Gareth Hart (Iridescent Ideas)

Following a public vote and a separate vote by the independent Certification Panel (both accounting for 50% of the final result), we were delighted to announce Dorset-based charity Help & Care as the winner, with Mid-Wales community transport organisation Llanwrtyd Wells Community Transport named as runner up.

Mark Cotton FRSA presented the award to Mark Sharman, CEO of Help & Care and presented certificates to Llanwrtyd Wells and finalists Golf Environment Organization and Iridescent Ideas.

We shortlisted 7 finalists from our network of 200+ Social Enterprise Mark holders, based on three broad criteria:

  • how well organisations have summarised their social inputs – by providing clear illustrations of activities delivered, the beneficiaries and intended benefits;
  • how far organisations have quantified their social outputs – levels of service “productivity” e.g. numbers of people helped, breadth of coverage, financial investment dedicated to social commitments;
  • how clearly organisations have assessed and provided measures of their social outcomes – the actual differences they have made (e.g. the benefits actually realised and reported by people, evident community improvements, levels of progress in addressing social issues etc.).

We also gave close consideration to whether Mark Holders have articulated how ongoing income and annual profits have been specifically invested in enhancing social impact, beyond core expenditure necessary to the delivery of their services. In other words, how they have added social value above and beyond their main business expectations – this can include subsidised or free services they have provided, which may have represented potential income generation activity and therefore represent a cost to the business, i.e. pro-bono work.

National Apprenticeship Week 2016

To mark National Apprenticeship Week, we are supporting the #PasstheTorch campaign.

Social Enterprise Mark CIC took on our first Apprentice in December. Lara Wylie, who joined the team as Customer Relations Assistant, is enrolled on a Level 2 Business and Administration Apprenticeship through City College Plymouth. On completion of the Level 2 qualification, Lara intends to enrol on the Level 3 Apprenticeship, with a long term view to study for a degree via the Open University.


The driving force of the Pass the Torch campaign is an Olympic-style torch which represents the passing on of Apprenticeship and Employer knowledge. The torch is making an appearance at a wide variety of business events from February to May. Employers are asked to pledge their support for apprenticeships and traineeships, showcasing their commitment to the government’s target to reach 3 million apprenticeships by 2020.

To pledge support you can:


Fusion21Social Enterprise Mark holder Fusion21 is also supporting the campaign, and has funded 144 Apprenticeships since 2014 – delivering £268,665 in social value, whilst supporting young people to learn a life-long trade.

The organisation has been helping to tackle the skills shortage in the construction industry, by funding a variety of apprenticeships in professions including joinery; bricklaying; plastering; painting and electrics. These initiatives provide young people with the chance to build a career by learning new skills and qualifications – which often lead to securing sustainable employment opportunities.

GeorgeEighteen-year old George Buckley from Halewood in Liverpool has excelled in a bricklaying apprenticeship, thanks to support and funding received from Fusion21. After nearly two years of hands-on work experience and studying at The City of Liverpool College, George is nearing the end of the scheme and is on track to receive a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) level 2. George’s apprenticeship has enabled him to mix the technical skills he has learnt in the classroom, with on-the-job experience gained from working for home builder and urban regeneration partner, Countryside.

George said: “I didn’t really enjoy school – I wanted to be out in the fresh air, earning money and learning skills I could turn into a career. That’s why an apprenticeship was the best option for me. My uncle has had a fantastic career as a bricklayer, and he inspired me to follow the same path.

 “I’ve worked really hard to develop my skills – and achieved third place in the SkillBuild Regional Heat Competition 2015, in the bricklaying category. SkillBuild is the largest multi-trade competition in the country, so it was a great indication of the progress I was making. This apprenticeship has been a fantastic stepping stone for me,” adds George – “each day is a fresh challenge – and I can confidently work on my own without supervision.”

Ian McDonough, Community Regeneration Manager at Fusion21, said: “George has really applied himself during his apprenticeship – and we’re really proud of what he has achieved.

“Apprenticeships can change lives – and it’s really important that these opportunities exist to develop new talent in the construction sector and other industries.”



National Apprenticeship Week 2016 runs from Monday 14th – Friday 18th March, and celebrates apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy.

To find out more about the National Apprenticeship Service visit

Social Enterprise Mark CIC accredited as Living Wage employer

The Living Wage Foundation is pleased to announce that Social Enterprise Mark CIC is now accredited as a Living Wage employer.

The Living Wage commitment will see everyone working at Social Enterprise Mark CIC, regardless of whether they are permanent employees or third-party contractors, receive a minimum hourly wage of £8.25. This is significantly higher than the national minimum wage of £6.70 and the new minimum wage premium for over 25s of £7.20 per hour set to be introduced this April.

The Living Wage is an hourly rate set independently and updated annually. The Living Wage is calculated according to the basic cost of living using the ‘Minimum Income Standard’ for the UK. Decisions about what to include in this standard are set by the public; it is a social consensus about what people need to make ends meet.

Employers choose to pay the Living Wage on a voluntary basis. The Living Wage enjoys cross party support, with public backing from the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

Living Wage Foundation Director, Sarah Vero said: “We are delighted to welcome Social Enterprise Mark CIC to the Living Wage movement as an accredited employer. The best employers are voluntarily signing up to pay the Living Wage now. The Living Wage is a robust calculation that reflects the real cost of living, rewarding a hard day’s work with a fair day’s pay.”


Join Social Enterprise Mark Certification Panel

Following the recent departure of a couple of our founding members, Social Enterprise Mark CIC is currently seeking people to join the independent Certification Panel, which oversees the assessment of applications for the Social Enterprise Mark.

The Panel’s role is to advise on the interpretation of the Mark criteria, evidence requirements, and other factors that contribute towards a robust assessment process. The Panel Member role is voluntary and we would welcome interest from any Mark holders and supporters who are prepared to lend their time fulfilling this vital function to Social Enterprise Mark (and Gold Mark) certification.

The Certification Panel typically meets twice a year, for between 2 – 3 hours, reviewing assessments made by our team across the year and other exceptional matters relevant to the criteria or new applicants who have put themselves forward. Across the course of the year, we may occasionally seek the advice of Panel Members outside of these meetings, usually via e-mail or by telephone.

Certification Panel members ideally bring experience of social enterprise but we are also interested in people who have wider expertise of ethical and good business practice. We are particularly interested in people that may have a background in education. Please click here for further details on the role of the Certification Panel and the current members.

If you would like further information, or are interested in applying to join the Panel, please contact Richard Cobbett, via email or by calling 07813 151234.

Social Enterprise Mark CIC Stakeholder Impact Report 2015

Many thanks to all Social Enterprise Mark holders and other stakeholders that participated in our online survey and follow up telephone interviews earlier this year, conducted on our behalf by Gareth Hart at Iridescent Ideas.

SurveyWe have now analysed the responses and are pleased to publish our Stakeholder Impact Summary Report, summarising the impact that Social Enterprise Mark accreditation currently has, and how we might increase this impact moving forward. The report contains headline findings and statistics from the survey, including:

  • Communicating principles
  • Social impact and social value
  • Social Enterprise Mark community
  • Public and stakeholder awareness
  • How Social Enterprise Mark accreditation makes a difference

The feedback gathered is invaluable in helping us to shape the Social Enterprise Mark for the future, and is now being fully considered as part of our strategy review. A key part of this is clarifying our proposition moving forwards and the key benefits that Social Enterprise Mark accreditation offers Mark holders.

We will report in further detail on our actions in response to the findings following our strategy review process. In the meantime, if you have any comments or questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch.



Have your say on social enterprise in Devon and Somerset

The Heart of the South West LEP is currently conducting a survey of social enterprises across the region, and we encourage all regional Mark Holders to get involved.

In order to build a current and accurate picture of social enterprise in the region, the survey is being conducted to establish a baseline of the size, impact, needs and potential of this increasingly significant sector.

If you run, or work for, a social enterprise, please click here to respond to the online survey.

Social Enterprise Mark Celebrates Five Years

The first national conference celebrating 5 years of the Social Enterprise Mark has been hailed as a great success.

The conference theme, ‘Social Enterprise Making a Difference’, looked to the future for social enterprise. Keynote speaker, The Big Issue’s Nigel Kershaw, spoke about the challenges on the horizon. In particular, he called for Government to be more enterprising and to justify investment in early stage entrepreneurial developments. The conference heard from June Burrough about the Pierian Centre, which was the first Community Interest Company (CIC) to achieve the Social Enterprise Mark. June’s book, ‘The Honesty Pot’, tells the story of the lessons and legacy of this widely-known, Bristol-based CIC.

Congratulations were proffered to two new Mark Holders – Charity Bank and Beacon Centre for the Blind. Charity Bank, an ethical bank that uses savings to make loans to charities and social enterprises, announced it has become the only UK bank to be awarded the Social Enterprise Mark. To celebrate, Charity Bank, announced its new partnership with the Social Enterprise Mark, offering a 25% reduction on their standard loan arrangement fee. Beacon Centre for the Blind is a Charity and Social Enterprise making a visible difference for people with visual impairment and sight loss in the West Midlands – operating Social Enterprise transport, catering, conferencing and meeting room hire services, shops and cafes, a print business and dry cleaners, health and social care support services, low vision adaptive aids sales and optometry services.

Lucy Findlay (Managing Director) and Ian Middleton (Chair) are pictured above cutting the birthday cake made by Mark Holder Seqol, and was joined by around 70 social enterprises, who enjoyed unique opportunities to network and share their experiences.

Lucy said: ‘It was great to work with our Mark Holders to bring this conference to fruition.  We have come a long way in 5 years and this event gave us an opportunity to reflect on the future and gain such useful insights from the broad experiences of certified social enterprises across the country. We would love to do it again soon and thank sponsors John Taylor Hospice and Coventry University for their fantastic support.’

Social Enterprise shares results of UK trust survey

The Social Enterprise Mark Company has commissioned a survey to explore the issue of trust among UK adults.

The survey explores attitudes within an individual’s own social circle as well as looking at other aspects of our every day lives like government and business.

Results show that two in three adults of the 2,000 surveyed said they had no faith in the government.

And the typical adult can claim to have around 15 friends through work, university and childhood – but can only really trust four of them.

More than half (54%) of adults surveyed have issues with trust. Adults feel most at risk of being betrayed by a friend, followed by someone they work closely with.

The poll revealed adults put most faith in their partner with six in ten voting them as most trust-worthy, followed by their best friend and then a parent.

The most common reason a person has felt betrayed was by having their secrets blabbed – as almost four in ten said they’d had this done by someone they considered a friend.

And the lack of trust even extended outside the social circle, as two in three adults stated they have no faith in the government.

Over half said they find banks to be dishonest, whilst people and brands linked to tax avoidance were also deemed undeserving of trust.

Companies trading with consumers are up against a very tough audience as results show an unease with what a company might say and what a consumer might believe.

Nearly two thirds of people agree with the statement that a lot of companies pretend to be ethical just to sell more products.

Lucy Findlay added:  “This survey shows trust is in short supply. And if people find it hard to trust each other, how much harder is it to trust businesses? And with good reason, as we’ve seen from the many recent examples of financial misconduct and fat cat salaries.”

“Social enterprises are all about accountability, transparency and fairly distributed profits. In other words they’re ethical businesses, committed to caring for both people and planet. “

“The Social Enterprise Mark is your guarantee of this.”

Find out more about the Social Enterprise Mark by visiting

Read the Managing Director’s blog about trust, see