As I mentioned in a previous blog post, we are experiencing an increasing interest in social enterprise accreditation at an international level. Since 2015, almost ¼ of all visits to our website have been from outside the UK, and we have recently awarded the fourth international Social Enterprise Mark to AUARA EMPRESA SOCIAL, a Spanish social enterprise investing profits from the sale of premium bottled water into social projects to provide clean water to people in need.
AUARA is the latest addition to our growing international network of accredited social enterprises, committed to trading for people and planet. Since C3 in UAE was approved as our first international Mark holder in April 2015, they have been joined by FLOCERT, the global certification body for Fairtrade labelled products, Northdoc, a GP out of hour’s service in Dublin, and now AUARA.
International applications are unavoidably more complex than applications from UK businesses, as we are unable to perform the usual verification actions involved in assessing applicants’ eligibility. Having said that, from our experience of assessing and accrediting the above organisations, we now have a tried and tested international assessment process that we are confident can be applied anywhere in the world.
It seems that the UK is considered something of a pioneer of social enterprise, and we at Social Enterprise Mark CIC are the world pioneers of social enterprise accreditation. As such, we are experiencing increasing demand from countries around the world wanting to learn about the UK experience, and, in particular, our experience of setting up an accreditation system for social enterprise.
Following a consultancy project with the Russian Foundation, Fund our Future, in 2015, which has led to more than 30 Russian social enterprises now holding their Social Enterprise Mark, we completed a similar piece of work for the British Council in China this year, advising on the development of a Chinese social enterprise accreditation system.
As a global champion of standards for social enterprise, and the body responsible for the only internationally available social enterprise accreditation, we are excited by these developments, and are proud to play a continuing role in influencing the destiny of social enterprise on a global scale.
Obviously, this growing interest in accreditation stems from an increased global awareness of the social enterprise business model and how it can play an important part in driving sustainable economic and social development. I was recently reminded of the 2015 ‘Think Global, Trade Social’ report from British Council and Social Enterprise UK, which made the case for the role social enterprise can play in addressing social and environmental challenges. In this report, it was particularly interesting to see a challenge to the common criticism of social enterprise – that it is too small and niche to make a significant difference at a national or global scale – a misconception that I have often
sought to correct.
As highlighted in the report, there is considerable evidence that social enterprise contributes significantly to economic development – for example, the G8 Social Impact Investment Taskforce reports that “Social sector organisations already account for more than 5% of GDP in several countries, including Canada, Germany, the UK and the US”.
The challenge is to raise the profile of social enterprise as a mainstream business model, and not just in the UK but on a global scale – this is something that we continually strive to achieve through our international work. Through our international consultancy services, we aim to support other countries to encourage the development of social enterprise and influence the conditions in which it can flourish.
A comment from our 2015 stakeholder survey jumped out at me – “(SEMCIC) needs to push the international dimension more – be the global centre of social enterprise.” It occurred to me then that we could better promote the international aspect of our work, not just by attracting more international applicants, but by championing the global standard for social enterprise through consultancy for our global counterparts.
I think we have made significant progress with this over the last year – both Richard and I have travelled to Asia (China and Taiwan respectively) to share our experience of setting up a social enterprise accreditation scheme, and we have had several other countries express an interest in our consultancy services. We have also doubled our network of international Mark holders, and have another in the pipeline, which we hope to announce soon!