How accreditation benefits social enterprises

A short introduction of who you are?

I am the founder and director of Iridescent Ideas (a social enterprise business advice firm) and have been a champion of the social enterprise movement in Plymouth and the South West of the UK. I’ve had a varied career working in public, private and social enterprise sectors. I’ve also been a musician/composer, cricket coach, binman, writer, lead acid battery cleaner and a telephone directory deliverer amongst other things!

I was first introduced to the concept of social enterprise in the late 1990s and ever since have been passionate about its potential to combine agency, aspiration, entrepreneurship, good cause, independence, and a sense of public service into something that truly re-writes the way we do business.

Gareth Hart Iridescent Ideas CIC

What is your main reason for joining our accreditation team? What were your expectations?

Defining social enterprise remains a thorny task but the Mark provides a way to clearly identify social enterprises. I was honoured to be invited to join the panel. The wider point for me is that if we do not radically rethink our business models we are doomed to recreate the same problems in the future. Social enterprise can be a bigger part of the solution to the current economic and environmental crisis so being part of the mark panel felt very significant to me.

Are there any specific achievements/accomplishments that attracted you to SEM CIC?

I’ve always valued the Mark’s integrity, simplicity and clarity. The opportunity to be part of that was very appealing.

What does accreditation mean to you? What does it say about your businesses who achieve it?

We live and work in a world where, sadly, it is all too easy to be cynical about corporate greenwashing so having robust, independent accreditation is important. Badges like Fair Trade, Organic, Investors in People or the Mark stand for something powerful about integrity and purpose. Simply put holding the Mark provides a guarantee that the business exists to deliver social and environmental impact and puts the majority of its profits back into activities benefiting people and planet.

What benefits have there been to social enterprises as a result of being accredited? E.g. do you feel the accreditation gives people more credibility as a social enterprise?

The accreditation provides people a sense of confidence and clarity about their business. My business and many organizations I work with are proud to have the Mark as it clearly shows their intent and purpose.

What would you say to social enterprise considering accreditation?

Do it!

What would you love to see happen in the world of Social Enterprise over the next 5 or 10 years?

I’d love social enterprise to become the norm – almost to the point where the term social enterprise wouldn’t be needed anymore. I spoke at a careers fair once where a 14 year old, once social enterprise had been explained to them, asked: “Shouldn’t all businesses be like this?” I’d love to see every young person have an experience of social enterprise at school, college or university. We need more social enterprises on the high street. We need more Patagonia’s shifting to a social enterprise model. We need government to take action to engender a new wave of ethical, purposeful businesses. We need to build a movement for social change through business. I believe we can, collectively, create a prosperous economy for all that tackles deep-rooted social and environmental problems.

What is the highlight of working with social enterprises? And for a social enterprise?

My career highlight has been helping my home city, Plymouth become the UK’s first ‘Social Enterprise City’. Plymouth has gone from a place with no social enterprise infrastructure and a limited ecosystem to a city renowned for its social enterprise culture, business advice, institutional policies and social investment opportunities. Running my own social enterprise has been an incredible journey. I’m often asked for business tips and if I would do anything different, my response: I should have been in social enterprise earlier.

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