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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.
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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 September 2020
1) What social differences and changes have you aimed to create (or supported)?
As the global champion of credible standards for social enterprise, our aim is to broaden the reach, awareness and adoption of the social enterprise business model, and ultimately to enable social enterprise to break out of the niche and be widely accepted as a credible alternative way of doing business; trading with the primary purpose of supporting social objectives and not for the personal profit of shareholders/business owners.
Over the last ten years, we have developed a comprehensive pathway to support social enterprises at all stages to work towards recognised standards of good practice and excellence. By providing a clear set of standards, we recognise and build the capabilities of social enterprises as competitive, sustainable businesses, which are dedicated to maximising social impact. This helps to raise the profile of social enterprises as competitive sustainable businesses that are addressing some of the most challenging issues facing society.
We are the only social enterprise accreditation body to operate as a social enterprise and we reinvest any profits back into developing our accreditations to ensure they remain fit for purpose and meet the needs of the expanding social enterprise sector, as well as championing the business model on a national and global scale.
Looking forward, we will continue to influence the debate around more sustainable and socially conscious business, to address poor business practice and those that ‘greenwash’/‘purpose wash’. This will be achieved through our social media/online presence (including our MD’s thought leadership blog), as well as creating more personal ambassadors that stand up for our values and ethics. We see this as being more important than ever as we emerge from the Covid-19 crisis and start to rebuild our economy – we need to emphasise how important social enterprises will be to the recovery and in creating a more resilient and fair economy moving forwards.
2) What actions have you taken to address the above social aims?
We led the way in formalising an agreed definition of what constitutes genuine social enterprise. Since the launch of the Social Enterprise Mark back in 2010, we have acted as a beacon for promoting, upholding and developing the standards that underpin this. As well as welcoming applications from social enterprises around the world, we support international partners to establish these standards in their own countries.
In 2019, we were involved in the Euclid Network MedUP programme, which brings together partners from across Europe and the southern Mediterranean to help develop the social entrepreneurship sector, in order to drive inclusive growth and job creation. Our Assessment and Compliance Manager Richard Cobbett was part of a peer exchange with the EL Space Social Innovation Hub in Tunisia, when he spent a week with the team at EL Space, learning about how they support social enterprises. We were due to host his Tunisian counterpart in April, but this was unfortunately postponed due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
We celebrated our tenth anniversary this year, which in the current climate, is a real milestone for any small business. We were delighted to be recognised as one of the top 40 UK social enterprises, as a finalist for the 2020 SE100 Social Business Awards.
Now we are faced with more challenging times, with the worldwide downturn and restrictions due to Covid-19. In response, we have focused our efforts on developing alliances with other sector bodies, to create a strong collective voice to lobby government for support to ensure social enterprises can survive this crisis and play an important part in rebuilding a stronger, more resilient economy. Working with partners across the sector, we outlined four clear policies that are the quickest and most effective ways to save the social enterprise sector, and we continue to push for their delivery.
We play an active role in national campaigning for greater recognition of the vital role social enterprises play in creating a fairer economy. For example, we have worked in partnership with Social Value UK, Social Enterprise UK and other bodies to create a business coalition, which calls for an urgent rewrite of UK company law to recognise and reward the right type of businesses to lead the economic recovery from Covid-19.
In the last year, we have focused on strengthening the relevance and credibility of our accreditation services, by broadening our portfolio to provide more of a journey for social enterprises. Our accreditation pathway supports social enterprises of all shapes and sizes to prove their credentials as commercially sustainable businesses that are creating real social impact through their operations.
Acting on feedback that there was a gap in support for those just getting started in social enterprise, we introduced a new entry level accreditation to enable new start-ups and aspiring social enterprises to demonstrate their commitment to social enterprise principles from the start. The Aspiring Social Enterprise accreditation represents the first step to becoming a fully-fledged social enterprise - one that has demonstrated they are sustaining themselves through trading income over a period of at least one year and achieved the standard of good practice represented by the Social Enterprise Mark. Applicants receive general support and guidance to help them achieve this objective and meet the related best practice criteria.
We have also continued to develop relationships with like-minded partners (in the UK and further afield), which believe in the need for accreditation. This helps our visibility and reach to social enterprises around the world and will amplify the message and help to create a more global movement for better business and making a difference.
We are working with the University of Westminster as they develop new postgraduate courses specifically for the social enterprise sector, and we have facilitated a number of events to help them engage with the sector to inform the course content and structure.
In response to the Covid-19 crisis, we put in place a number of measures to support our network and the wider social enterprise community through this unprecedented situation, including a temporary relaxation of assessment requirements and the offer of flexible/staged payments to reduce the burden on social enterprises during this challenging time.
3) What has changed and what benefits have been realised as a result of your actions?
As part of our sector campaigning, we sent an open letter to the Chancellor, signed by over 1,000 businesses, which urged him to act to support the UK social enterprise sector to survive the Covid-19 crisis.
As a result, the government announced £85million of additional financial support to help charities and social enterprises during the coronavirus outbreak, including blended finance packages and emergency loans.
16 organisations have been supported by the introduction of flexible payment options.
In our most recent stakeholder survey (2019), 94% of respondents felt the Social Enterprise Mark provides clear and credible standards for the sector and defines what it means to be a genuine social enterprise. The large majority of respondents (91%) also felt the Mark is a positive influence on the UK social enterprise sector. In addition, 92% of respondents that hold our accreditation said it is important in helping distinguish them, by showing they submit to the scrutiny of independent accreditation.
“Holding the mark allows us to tell people why being a social enterprise is important us and this is something that is right across the board - from staff to patients - shared on social media etc.”
“Credibility, integrity, accountability, and objectivity of assessment are all benefits.”
“We are very proud of being awarded the Social Enterprise Mark! The fact that is has not been easy confirms that it is a thorough process and therefore we are even happier to achieve this global standard.”
4) Please describe how your income and/or any profits generated from previous years has been maximised in delivering social outputs and adding social value
In partnership with a local solicitors’ firm, we have created a resource pack, which contains guidance on setting up a social enterprise. This is free to download from our website via a short sign-up form.
We share a number of other resources openly on our website, to support those interested in social enterprise. Social enterprises are also able to access our guidance on articulating their social impact, to support new and established social enterprises to communicate how they are creating social impact.
Our team are frequently asked to speak at sector events, both in the UK and internationally, and this time is predominantly offered free of charge.
We continue to use social enterprises for goods and services wherever possible. In 2019/20 our total expenditure with social enterprises (and charities) was £14,274, which was 7% higher than in the previous year.
In 2019, we invested over £10,000 in developing two new specialist standards in partnership with the Supported Business Steering Group, following discussions with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The Social Enterprise Disability Employment Mark and the Local Authority Disability Employment Mark aim to provide assurance to commissioners/funding bodies on the specialist supportive environment available to disabled employees, and therefore support these businesses to demonstrate good practice as exemplar employers in promoting equality and diversity. These standards have informed the direction of DWP’s plans to introduce a formal accreditation for such employers and future DWP funding arrangements for supporting them.
Each year, we hold a summer away day, where our team spend time supporting a local charity or other community group. In the last two years, the volunteering time donated in this way totalled £750.
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 do you and other people know your aims are being achieved? Or how will you know?
We remain customer-focussed and regularly consult with our customers and stakeholders, to ensure the services we provide continue to be fit for purpose and meet the needs of the sector. Through conversations with those interested in gaining accreditation, we realised there was a gap in support for those just starting their social enterprise journey, that didn’t yet achieve the requirements for the Social Enterprise Mark. Acting on this, we have worked on building a pathway to provide a more comprehensive journey to social enterprise excellence for organisations of all shapes and sizes. There is now a growing number of aspiring social enterprises joining our network, which we are supporting to meet the criteria of the Social Enterprise Mark.
We are continuing to develop a comprehensive social enterprise accreditation framework, which will establish a pathway to good practice and excellence that all social enterprises can engage with in order to develop and improve. Further to the introduction of the Aspiring Social Enterprise accreditation, we also plan to develop an additional ‘tier’ of accreditation between the Social Enterprise Mark and Social Enterprise Gold Mark, to support established social enterprise to strive towards achieving standards of excellence. This demonstrates how we are continually developing our services to support social enterprises of all shapes and sizes to reinforce their development and credibility.
We plan to conduct our next stakeholder survey in 2020/21, which will provide useful insights into the changing environment post-Covid and how we can adapt our services to better support the sector.
6) How many people have benefitted from your actions and what measures of benefit can you report?
At the end of 2019/20 there was a total of 129 MH carried over into 2020/21, compared to 127 the previous year. The current total number of MH (as at September 2020) is 134, which demonstrates a continued increase in the number of organisations seeking to prove their social enterprise credentials. This includes 7 new-start social enterprises, which have been awarded the Aspiring Social Enterprise accreditation.
The average turnover of Mark Holders increased by almost 5% (from <£1.7M to <£1.8m) between 2018/19 and 2019/20*. Over 2/3 of Mark holders reported an increase in turnover in this time period. Although Mark holders say it is difficult to qualify if having the Mark directly affects sales, or to provide specific examples, there is a general feeling that it does have some impact.
* The calculation of the median average turnover (which shows the middle point of all listed turnover figures) is based on the reported turnovers of Mark holders that held accreditation in 2018/19 and 2019/20.
7) What examples can you provide of a typical service user experience, that help illustrate the benefits they have experienced as a result of your actions?
Sample feedback from Mark holders:
“Being a values-led organisation underpins our desire to support people with learning disabilities and/or autism to be valued and active citizens. Therefore, being a recognised social enterprise is important to us. We strongly believe that the Social Enterprise Mark validates our values, approach and reputation.”
“In spite of the hugely constrained environment, we are putting sustainability and social justice at the heart of our work, and the Social Enterprise Gold Mark adds huge value as a practical expression of our vision.”
“The Social Enterprise Mark is an excellent way for us to communicate our aims, purposes, and priorities to students, partners and other stakeholders in an era of increased scrutiny of the role of Universities in society”
8) What social and environmental benefits have you created arising from internal operational policies and other actions?
We are accredited as a Living Wage Employer, which means we are committed to paying all employees the real Living Wage (as set by the Living Wage Foundation), which reflects the real cost of living, rewarding a hard day’s work with a fair day’s pay.
We are also committed to making our employment and recruitment practices more inclusive, to enable us to recruit and support disabled and otherwise disadvantaged people. In pursuit of this, we have joined the government Disability Confident scheme at the Committed level.
We operate a flexible working policy and the majority of our team work from home, therefore reducing the need to commute to a place of work. Where travel is necessary, we encourage staff to consider the environmental impact of their activities and have a policy to use public transport where possible (although this is obviously now dependent on restrictions imposed by government due to Covid-19).
We make an annual contribution to the local food bank by way of a collection of food donations, which are used for Christmas food parcels for disadvantaged people in the local community.
Every summer, as part of our annual team day, our team spend time supporting a local charity or other community group, including:
- Beach clean/litter picking at Mount Edgcumbe Country Park
- Volunteering with Grow Stonehouse, 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