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Lucy Findlay at launch of the Social Enterprise Mark in 2010

Another year older, another year wiser?

As we celebrate the 8th anniversary of the launch of the Social Enterprise Mark, I am proud of our progress, and how we have remained true to our original aim of identifying and certifying genuine social enterprises, and more latterly emphasising the upholding of standards to support this aim.

Since 2010, Social Enterprise Mark CIC (and formerly RISE, the umbrella body that supported social enterprises in the south west of England), has acted as an arbiter of robust social enterprise standards, working to ensure the social enterprise business model remains ethical, credible and commercial, through independent accreditation.

It would perhaps have been easier at times not to have ‘stuck to our guns’, but we have learnt many valuable lessons along the way. Plus, I do pride myself on the fact that my USP is not following the crowd! We have continually adapted our products to the changing marketplace, responding to customer’s needs, market opportunities and changes to the economy.

Launch of the Social Enterprise Gold Mark at House of Commons in 2014

Launch of the Social Enterprise Gold Mark at Houses of Commons in 2014

For example, we developed and launched the Social Enterprise Gold Mark in 2014, as the first (and only) standard of social enterprise excellence. This was in response to people questioning how you can identify excellence and good practice in social enterprise. The Gold Mark is not just an accreditation; it scores businesses in different areas of governance, ethical business practice, financial transparency, and social and environmental impact, and also provides an action plan going forwards to ensure continual development.

As we continue to see high profile private sector/corporate service delivery debacles putting shareholder interests before people and communities, e.g. Carillion, Virgin Care, G4S, Capita etc etc (not to mention the banking sector!), I can’t help thinking that we should surely be at a turning point by now?

The debate nationally still seems to be – ‘how can we get social enterprises to scale up to meet the needs of commissioners?’ Surely this is the wrong question. Bigger and bigger often leads to standardisation, mediocrity and a lack of flexibility to the local circumstances.  Plus, there is another way and it does not have to copy the corporate world! Social enterprise offers a flexible, credible, business approach to the problems and issues that society has, without hands tied behind its back with pressure from shareholders and investors. Maybe one day the penny will drop?

It does appear to be dropping with consumers; the 2017 Ethical Consumer Markets Report showed that almost ¼ of respondents reported buying goods/services specifically because of a company’s ethical reputation, a 28% increase on the previous year. The tide is turning and hopefully the public and corporate sector will sit up and take note and we will see a new paradigm where businesses can’t just tick a box anymore – they actually have to prove that they are making a positive impact on society and the world around us. Maybe then we will welcome an age where social enterprise is lauded as the true business model of choice, proving that it is not just a ‘lip service’ CSR department.

In anticipation of this, we believe it is crucial to get ourselves prepared with clear standards, which differentiate and protect the integrity of genuine social enterprises, and to help consumers identify businesses that are committed to truly trading for the good of people and planet.

That is why, as we embark on our 9th year as the social enterprise accreditation authority, I am confident that we are moving in the right direction and that the big times are still to come!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Global champion of standards for social enterprise

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.

Lucy Findlay

Post truth and post authenticity?

I write this on a day when Donald Trump has been announced as President Elect of the USA.  There are many questions being asked and much soul searching for answers to them. Amongst others – are we in a post truth era or an era that wants to kick over the traces of corporate and institutional power that have bypassed them? One thing is for sure, it has been very difficult to see the truth from the myths and the authenticity of the message.

A lack of transparency and clarity from leaders and commentators regarding the business model has also been a feature of social enterprise too for as long as I can remember.  This has served a purpose; to pump-up the sector in terms of size and diversity without asking too many questions.  It has also served a small number of well-connected social enterprises that know and can milk the system, which has led to the development of opaque business models that have benefited from the patronage of government and support programmes, e.g. Social Impact Bonds and the advent of Social Investment.

se_brand_approved_rgbIt was partly for this reason that we set up the Social Enterprise Mark as a project 9 years ago, and 3 years later as a business in its own right.  We now have the longest pedigree and experience of social enterprise accreditation in the world and are indeed seen as leaders, with international academics and experts looking to us for our expertise in this field, e.g. British Council in China. Social enterprises outside the UK have also decided that they wish to accredit directly through our process, e.g. Fairtrade Labelling Organisation (FLOCERT). This proves that there is an appetite for being seen as different and being able to prove it credibly.

trustmark-logoWe can draw an analogy to TrustMark, a Social Enterprise Mark Holder, which evolved in response to concerns in the building sector. It is a government-endorsed accreditation scheme for trades in and around the home, providing reassurances that businesses must regularly stand up to scrutiny to.

Social Enterprise Mark CIC had an original mandate from our sector to provide a similar service in the UK, verifying businesses who are genuine social enterprises.

We have learned, from the experiences of Fair Trade, of the importance of having a status that could confer genuineness and authenticity.  At the time many different models were banded about, e.g. self-certification, CSR marks, membership bodies etc.  We were clear that certifying authenticity can only be achieved through independence (the certification panel) and with transparency (application of the criteria consistently). This is why we operate as an independent CIC and not a membership body.  Membership bodies depend upon and exist to promote the interests of their paying members, and through their sector – a potential conflict of interest.

We take our customers and accreditation very seriously and have built the value added to ensure that our accreditation does not stand still and is really clear to the outside world – for example, developing social value declarations to help demonstrate the commitment that all social enterprises should have to making a positive difference for people and planet, as well as the Social Enterprise Gold Mark as an indicator of business excellence.

The term “accreditation” may be used to distinguish a system of certification that actually seeks evidence in confirmation of an organisations credentials. The Social Enterprise Mark has always done this and we are challenge-stampcurrently working with international sustainability standards, established by ISEAL, to help align our Marks with best practice models of accreditation. Whenever you see the term “certified”, ISEAL encourage people to “challenge the label”; to consider a few critical questions that help determine what that certification is really worth.

In striving for the best practice in accreditation, we have been and will continue to consult Mark Holders (and the wider sector). Our aim is to continue to provide a certification process that offers genuinely credible accreditation, one that social enterprises can take pride in and learn to improve from the world over.

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.

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.

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