In 2020 we achieved a milestone that is very near to our hearts: we were awarded the Social Enterprise Mark. This means we are accredited as a genuine social enterprise – the Social Enterprise Mark is an independent guarantee that we put the interests of people & planet above shareholder gain. We have been externally assessed against sector-agreed criteria and have proved our commitment to using profits and income to create benefits for society and the environment.
Social enterprises are independently owned and managed trading businesses that reinvest income and profits to address social and environmental issues, above that of shareholder profit motivations. There are five broad areas that are assessed:
- Does the company trade primarily in support of a formal social purpose?
- Does the company generate over half of its income from trading activities?
- Does the company reinvest over half of its profits into its social purpose?
- Is there an asset lock, so do the assets of the company go towards its social purposes should the company be liquidated or sold?
- Does the company measure and report on its social impact?
These standards, taken together, also imply that the business should operate in an ethical and environmentally sustainable way. Apart from that though, the thing that we hope you’ll take away is that the barriers to becoming a social enterprise are actually quite low: lots of small businesses could become formal social enterprises relatively easily, if not exactly overnight. We know plenty of purpose-driven small business owners who could take this step.
As with other kinds of quality standards, committing to continuous improvement is crucial, and we have a lot of learning to do to excel in these areas. However, we’re already doing well enough to be given this accreditation and that is encouraging us to keep on improving.
The Social Enterprise Mark is used by thousands of businesses globally to mark their intentions to trade ethically in support of a social purpose. We’re really privileged to be part of this network and it’s a particular honour to be based in Plymouth where there is such a strong local culture and tradition of social enterprise. And of course we’ve not done this on our own: we’re really grateful for the help we’ve had from Plymouth Social Enterprise Network, the School for Social Entrepreneurs, the Rank Foundation, the SE Mark CIC, Plymouth City Council and many many more individuals (too many to mention here!) and organisations in the community.