Social Enterprise Mark CIC is the 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.
We are not a membership body and approval is not automatic: around 30% of organisations applying or interested in the Social Enterprise Mark are assessed as ineligible. Existing Mark holders’ eligibility is also reassessed on an annual basis, to ensure they still meet the criteria.
This robust accreditation process enables organisations that are awarded the Social Enterprise Mark/Gold Mark to stand out from the crowd, as proven social enterprises which are independently guaranteed to be trading for people and planet.
Make it easy for your customers to see you deliver social value – get assessed for the Social Enterprise Mark and prove your social enterprise credentials.
Social Impact Declaration: Social-Impact-Declaration_Social-Enterprise-Mark-CIC.pdf
Social Impact Statements:
Social Impact Statements
The Social Enterprise Mark criteria includes a requirement that the applicant can demonstrate that social and/or environmental objectives are being achieved.
In support of this, new applicants and renewing Mark holders are asked to respond to a set of social impact questions, which are designed to help them think about the social impact they create, and to articulate this clearly and succinctly.
Updated August 2018
1) What social differences and changes have you aimed to create (or supported)?
Social Enterprise Mark CIC exists to recognise and build the capabilities of social enterprises as competitive, sustainable businesses, dedicated to maximising social impact above shareholder profit. We support social enterprises to be commercially sustainable and create impact.
We work to assure the social enterprise business model remains ethical, credible and commercial, through providing robust independent accreditation services. This provides a clear standard for the social enterprise sector, which is currently unregulated, and defines what it means to be a genuine social enterprise.
We also endeavour to engage new markets in social enterprise, to broaden the reach, awareness and adoption of the business model – we want social enterprise to break out of the niche to be widely accepted as a credible alternative way of doing business.
An example of this is our continuing relationship with the Higher Education sector, whereby we have established a clear partnership between universities and the social enterprise sector, by demonstrating how they can get involved in the social enterprise agenda to play a significant role in the social, cultural and economic development of society.
We offer the only internationally available social enterprise accreditation, and are seeing a growing interest in social enterprise at a global level. The UK is acknowledged as a pioneer in this model of business and Social Enterprise Mark CIC are the world pioneers of social enterprise accreditation.
2) What actions have you taken to address the above social aims?
We continue to provide robust, externally assessed, independent standards for social enterprise, which enable social enterprises to demonstrate their credibility as commercially sustainable businesses that are creating real social impact.
As well as the Social Enterprise Mark, which defines what it means to be a social enterprise, we also provide a quality benchmark for social enterprises (Social Enterprise Gold Mark excellence framework), which encourages social enterprises to build their capabilities in line with best practice; providing a route for continual service improvement.
We also provide advice and share expertise to new start-ups and fledgling social enterprises, to support them to develop in order to qualify for accreditation, as well as supporting social enterprises to be commercially sustainable and create impact. We do this by:
- Promoting the services of Mark holders to international business network and encouraging social enterprises to work in partnership to create increased impact
- Helping Mark holders consistently articulate their social value and transparently communicate this evidence through our online directory, visited by c.500 visitors each month – in the last year, we have developed a set of social impact questions, to help applicants and Mark holders to think about the social impact they create and to articulate this clearly and succinctly
- Enabling social enterprise to communicate their social enterprise ethos to generate business, by providing a recognisable ‘badge’ that customers can look for to identify credible social enterprises that are proven to be trading for the good of people and planet
- Acting as a partner in EU co-funded ERASMUS Social Up programme to develop tools for social enterprises to improve their businesses planning skills
We believe robust good practice standards must always be evolving, to ensure they are fit for the purposes and requirements of the relevant sector(s). With this in mind, we have conducted a comprehensive stakeholder consultation as part of a full review of the existing criteria and assessment framework for the Social Enterprise Gold Mark.
From this, we also hope to learn points that may influence the development of the main Social Enterprise Mark, or other potential iterations of these social enterprise accreditations. This review will help reflect upon what constitutes social enterprise best practice and excellence, along with how this can be reasonably determined in robust and cost-effective ways, for social enterprises of differing shapes and size.
We have continued our engagement activities with the Higher Education sector:
- Writing articles and blogs for sector publications
- Partnership with selected universities and representatives from the social enterprise sector to lobby the new Office for Students to take a Social Value for Money approach to measuring student outcomes
- Attended and spoke at sector events, e.g. Westminster HE Forum
- Facilitated a network of HEIs that hold the Social Enterprise Mark/Gold Mark and provided opportunities for shared learning
We are also working with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Supported Business Steering Group to develop a new framework to enable supported businesses (those that facilitate the employment of disabled people) to prove their credentials when bidding for DWP programmes. This will build on the principles of Disability Confident, to provide assurance to DWP on the quality of employment outcomes for disabled people.
We have continued to act as the global champion of credible standards for social enterprise. The Social Enterprise Mark now has a presence in 11 different countries, including South Africa, China, and UAE. As well as welcoming applications from social enterprises across the world, we also offer international consultancy services, to advise global counterparts looking to set up equivalent social enterprise accreditation schemes within their own countries.
In the last year, we have applied for at least one international funding programme to support our international development, and continue to investigate opportunities to take this work forward.
3) What has changed and what benefits have been realised as a result of your actions?
Provision of a robust standard for social enterprises enables Mark holders to think more carefully about what they are trying to achieve in terms of social outcomes, as well as providing a tool to demonstrate how they are making a difference.
Sample feedback from the 2018 Social Enterprise Mark/Gold Mark review:
“The Social Enterprise Mark a statement of quality in general, it’s about what we do… It has helped us to work through our outcomes, through the process of re-accreditation. We had to think it through as a board and team and we clarified our overall policy and strategy.”
“The re-accreditation was valuable, they wanted us to demonstrate our social impact, going through that and proving it we felt it was challenging and we were happy to do it.”
“We do stuff with a social purpose but we had not measured it. We’re doing it now in a purposive way.”
In our last general stakeholder survey (2016), the majority of Mark holder respondents stated that the Social Enterprise Mark/Gold Mark enables them to demonstrate their credibility as a genuine, independently assessed social enterprise. It was also largely felt that the Social Enterprise Mark is a positive influence on the UK social enterprise sector.
- 96% of respondents said the Mark helps them to communicate the significance of being a social enterprise to stakeholders
- 79% said the Mark helps distinguish them from other social businesses
- 73% agreed the Mark is a worthwhile and useful influence on the UK social enterprise sector
- 84% agreed we are achieving our mission of assuring the social enterprise business model remains ethical, credible and commercial through accreditation
Our work in building a relationship with the HE sector has led to further interest from HEIs over the last year – there are now 11 HEIs that have been awarded the Social Enterprise Mark/Gold Mark (6 hold the Gold Mark), with more in the pipeline. We have supported HEIs to view themselves in a different way and to play a more active role in the social enterprise arena.
Sample feedback from the 2018 Social Enterprise Mark/Gold Mark review:
“The Gold Mark has given us an umbrella to sit under. We had not thought of ourselves as a social enterprise, it’s just what we do. The Social Enterprise Mark CIC team applied the social enterprise lens to what we do. We’ve learned to think about ourselves in a different way.”
4) How do you and other people know your aims are being achieved? Or how will you know?
As mentioned above, we have conducted a stakeholder consultation to gather feedback on the existing criteria and assessment framework for the Social Enterprise Gold Mark, the findings of which will influence the future development of the Gold Mark, as well as the Social Enterprise Mark and other potential iterations/levels of accreditation.
We also conduct a full stakeholder survey every 1-2 years, to assess perceptions of the value of our accreditation services to the social enterprise sector, and to identify any areas for future development.
Our annual conference provides a further opportunity for us to connect with our key stakeholders, to gain insights on the value of our work and how we can develop this to better suit their needs.
With the development of the new accreditation for supported businesses, we are piloting the draft framework with a small target group, the results of which will inform the final development of this service.
The below questions are not mandatory, but Mark holders are encouraged to answer them where possible, to provide a fuller account of their social outcomes and the social value they create.
5) How many people have benefitted from your actions?
We are seeing a continued increase in the average financial performance of Mark holders who continued to hold the Social Enterprise Mark/Gold Mark between 2016/17 and 2017/18. During this time, the median average turnover (which shows the middle point of all listed turnover figures) reported by Mark Holders has risen from £912,049 to £996,287, and at least 42% of Mark Holders reported an increase in their turnover*.
So, although there are a lower number of Mark holders this year, this increase in average income indicates the Mark is attracting organisations that want to demonstrate they have a sustainable business model, with increased potential to create real social impact, and who value the recognition of an independent accreditation. It is also indicative of our mission to develop a standard of social enterprise quality, which organisations want to aspire towards and regularly be held account to, in the interests of all their stakeholders.
In particular, the number of Social Enterprise Gold Mark holders has increased again this year, with seven organisations now holding this enhanced accreditation. This indicates a growing movement of businesses wishing to demonstrate their social enterprise and business excellence.
* We started to collect this data for all Mark Holders during 2017, so this median figure is only based on Mark Holders that provided figures for both periods concerned. The percentage of Mark Holders reporting increased turnover is based on total Mark Holders at the end of 2017/18, including those where we were unable to determine if there was an increase or not. However, other indications suggest these increases are likely to be higher: the median average turnover of all Mark Holders, including successful applicants in 2017/18, is now £1,161,105; and if we only consider those Mark Holders where turnover figures for both years were available, the number reporting an increase in their turnover is actually 63%).
6) What examples can you provide of a typical service user experience, that helps illustrate the benefits they have experienced as a result of your actions?
Sample feedback from the 2018 Social Enterprise Mark/Gold Mark review:
“The Social Enterprise Mark CIC team make assessments easier, it’s very simple but there are robust criteria. At first, we couldn’t describe what we do, but we got help from Richard. That was a deal maker for us. I was too close to what we do. Richard was hand-holding and very helpful.”
“SEM is a small organisation, we know the individuals, they’re extremely accessible, pleasant, realistic, good communicators, supportive. Dealings with them are warm and I look forward to working with them”
“Being part of the Gold Mark makes us more NHS than the NHS. We do fair things such as paying the minimum wage and it allows us to show that we’re delivering tax payer services in a responsible way. It’s a powerful message and it separates us from private providers.”
7) What additional social benefits have you been able to deliver within your core services that distinguish you from other “for shareholder profit” providers?
We continue to embed social enterprise within our supply chain - we use social enterprises for goods and services wherever possible. In 2017/18, we spent c.£11,000 with social enterprises.
We offer a subsidised rate for Social Enterprise Mark/Gold Mark holders attending our annual conference, to enable them to access valuable networking and peer learning opportunities, which can support the development and growth of their social enterprise. This is also a further opportunity for us to share expertise and advice/resources. In 2018, we also offered a number of bursary places for smaller social enterprises local to the conference venue.
8) What other social benefits have you contributed that go beyond your core delivery activities (ones that are completely unrelated to your main services)?
We made a donation to a local food bank at Christmas 2017, our staff also conducted a collection of food donations, which were also given to the food bank for their Christmas food parcels.
For our team away day in 2018, we volunteered at a local charity, Grow Stonehouse, which is a community gardening project in Stonehouse, Plymouth, which helps local residents to find ways to meet, socialise and spend time outdoors in shared green spaces.
9) What social and environmental benefits have you created from internal operational policies and actions?
We are an accredited Living Wage Employer, which means we are committed to paying all employees the real Living Wage, which reflects the real cost of living, rewarding a hard day’s work with a fair day’s pay.
We have joined the Disability Confident scheme as Committed (Level 1), which involves signing up to the below commitments:
- inclusive and accessible recruitment
- communicating vacancies
- offering an interview to disabled people
- providing reasonable adjustments
- supporting existing employees
We also pledged to take certain actions to make our employment and recruitment practices more inclusive; to enable us to recruit and support disabled people.
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