The Social Enterprise Mark, introduced by the Social Enterprise Coalition and RISE in the UK, has the objective “to develop knowledge and understanding of social enterprises across the wider public and communities by establishing a brand to represent businesses trading for people and planet” (Social Enterprise Mark, 2010).
It is an attempt to develop the social enterprise brand and strengthen a network of such businesses, yet its criteria have already been questioned. Among others, the social enterprise needs to earn least 50% of its income from trading activities and spend at least 50% of its profits on socially beneficial purposes. While the former distinguishes it from traditional charities, the latter is the more interesting to me: Only half the profits (mind you, this is what’s left AFTER administrative expenses etc.) devoted to its social and environmental goals? It comes rather close to blurring the line of the definition mentioned in my previous post of surpluses “principally” being reinvested. With the threshold having been at 65% during the pilot stage of the mark, the current criteria have already been criticised by the Scottish counterpart to the Social Enterprise coalition: Senscot (read more here).
Why these changes? According to the mark’s administrators, the threshold change was designed to attract a high volume of entrants quickly. It is debatable whether this actually diminishes the branding effect and impact of the mark, or whether the volume of entrants was actually higher than it would have been with a 65% reinvestment threshold.
So far only about a hundred social enterprise acquired the mark, out of an estimated 62,000 social enterprises in the UK (Social Enterprise Mark, 2010).