Tag Archives: Social Enterprise Mark criteria

How many ‘lords a leaping’?

'Lords a leaping'

Source: Wikipedia, The Twelve Days of Christmas song

I hadn’t noticed before, but there are any number of ‘lords a leaping’ in the well-known Christmas song, the Twelve days of Christmas – anything from 10 to 12, in fact! (Source: Wikipedia, Twelve Days of Christmas)

I wonder how many lords are ‘a leaping’ today, following the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement yesterday?  I’m sure there are not that many social enterprises ‘a leaping’, that’s for sure!

As you may know, I was a member of the working group that consulted on the Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR) that was highlighted in the Autumn Statement yesterday.  The outcome is disappointing at best.

Despite pointing out a clear solution to HM Treasury, in the form of the Social Enterprise Mark criteria to identify social enterprises, the Treasury have limited the impact of SITR to a small set of legal structures, where few organisations will benefit.

I’m clearly concerned that around 30% of Mark holders are potentially excluded from being eligible.  However, if this is the chosen method of applying social investment, we have yet to see if it will really address the resource needs of Mark holders anyway.

The Government  will publish its response to the consultation alongside draft legislation next week and I’ll be attending the next HM Treasury consultation in January, but I don’t expect to see a u-turn.

I doubt you’ll see ‘1 Lucy leaping’, thats for certain!

Why independent certification is important for social enterprises

Why certify in the first place?
If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck – is it a duck? Or does it matter if it’s a duck or a Christmas turkey disguised as a duck when it tastes nice and lays good eggs? (not that I’ve ever tried turkey eggs!)

Social enterprise is a term that has been around for a number of years now, but there are many people who are confused partly because there is no legal definition and partly because the term seems to have been adopted by so many different people, all having their own ideas about what it is. There’s also been a culture which ignored the integrity of such businesses, as long as it got the right results and demonstrated social impact.

Have customers really thought about the type of business that they are buying from though and if they knew, would they make different choices?

Witness the high-street banks. We all thought they were doing a great job, until the short term shareholder profit motivation and bonus culture was exposed along with the associated behaviours. Then there are the ethics – why should a company that is set up to support some of the most vulnerable in our society, then take individual profit for doing this?

In addition, how can you protect the integrity of something if you don’t know what it is that you are protecting?

Certification is necessary as it places boundaries and criteria which develop common understanding of the product, what it does and what it stands for.

So why not self-certify after all it’s quicker, cheaper and potentially more accessible?

Easy accessibility is its key downfall. It does not protect integrity, it is inconsistent and is open to self-interpretation and in the worst cases, abuse.

Having run the Social Enterprise Mark since the beginning, we have developed the criteria in partnership with the sector and have protected and owned these criteria fiercely. It is our experience that interpretation of the criteria is a technical job and not easily carried out by anyone. We are constantly learning about new forms of social enterprise and the way that they operate. Our Assessment Manual has taken years of work to develop and our certification panel has taken its job very seriously in developing those precedents which have been set.

This might all sound really boring and techy but it’s important for the future of social enterprise if we are not just to be subsumed into the wider corporate responsibility camp.

We stand for so much more and our Mark proves that this is the case.

For a more indepth understanding, have a look at Social Enterprise Mark’s criteria

At the cutting edge….

The news that the Ministry of Justice through the National Offender Management Management Service (NOMS) is adopting the Social Enterprise Mark’s criteria in its social enterprise contract is very welcome.  Recognition that clarity is needed by government and contractors is long overdue.

How can government be confident that it has really supported genuine social enterprises without some form of certification and understanding of what it has bought?

This logic has been mirrored by our experiences with the private sector in our 50in250 campaign.  Big companies are also looking for reassurance that what they are buying into is genuinely ‘doing what it says on the tin’.  This week Telereal Trillium has also made the commitment to buy from at least 5 certified social enterprises over the next few months.

Those innovative social enterprises already certified with the Mark are the early adopters at the cutting edge of social enterprise developments both internationally and in the UK (a world leader in the social enterprise field).  The European Commission, for instance, has prioritised the labelling of social enterprises that it supports.  That trend will continue to grow.