Lucy Findlay

What makes Social Enterprise Mark certification different?

There is often confusion between the various ‘badges’, ‘identifiers’ and ‘certifications’ available to organisations looking to prove their social and ethical credentials, and we are often met with questions about the relationship between the Social Enterprise Mark and other certification schemes.

Following the official UK launch event of B Corps last night, which I attended, we thought this may be an appropriate time to distinguish how the Social Enterprise Mark is different from other schemes. Of course, it is testament to the strength of the social enterprise movement that there are a number of options available to those looking to accredit their social enterprise credentials, but it may be useful to clarify the differences between these options.

The Social Enterprise Mark CIC is the ONLY UK and international certification authority that independently guarantees that a business operates as a social enterprise, with the central aim of using income and profits to maximise their positive social and/or environmental impact, which takes precedent over more standard business models, which are typically driven by a requirements to maximise personal profits for owners and shareholders.

Applicants must meet the qualification criteria (summarised below) in order to be awarded the Social Enterprise Mark, and are re-assessed each year to ensure they continue to meet the criteria. The Social Enterprise Mark is not a membership scheme – it is a certification, subject to an independent Certification Panel.

Summary of qualification criteria:

  • have social or environmental aims
  • have own constitution and governance
  • earn at least 50% income from trading (or pledge to achieve this within 18 months)
  • spend at least 50% profits fulfilling social or environmental aims
  • distribute residual assets to social or environmental aims, if dissolved
  • demonstrate social value

Approval is not automatic; not everyone who applies for the Social Enterprise Mark is successful, but we will always give advice on required changes. Approximately 30% of organisations applying or expressing an interest in doing so are assessed as ineligible, from the point of initial enquiry, through their application and our assessment, up to the point of scrutiny by the Certification Panel. We review Mark Holders continuing eligibility on an annual basis and whenever an organisation is found to no longer be meeting our criteria, their Mark Holder status is removed.

To help illustrate the key differences between the Social Enterprise Mark and other certification/accreditation schemes, we have produced a useful comparison, which sets out the differences between the Mark and the newly launched B Corp certification.


Looking at social impact in particular, we have recently strengthened our assessment of how applicants and renewing Mark Holders demonstrate that social/environmental objectives are achieved. We now require a minimum of three ‘social impact statements’, which illustrate how they are striving to meet their social and environmental objectives. This is to ensure Mark Holders are reflecting upon their social/environmental impact and at the very least can articulate what they are doing year on year to make a difference.

The Social Enterprise Mark is not just an internal assessment for social enterprises to evaluate their social impact; it provides proof that they have been assessed against sector-agreed criteria, and have been guaranteed as a genuine social enterprise.

Subject to meeting the criteria, organisations can become a certified social enterprise and verify their credentials from just £350+VAT per year. The annual licence fee is based on the organisation’s annual income, ranging from £350+VAT to £4,500+VAT.

To find out if you qualify for the Social Enterprise Mark, use our handy criteria checklist. If you are eligible, why not start the application process today to guarantee your social enterprise credentials with the Social Enterprise Mark.