Last week, I blogged about a tweet from the Social Enterprise Mark which seemed to suggest that getting the accreditation is the only way to prove a social enterprise is genuine. Anne Mountjoy, who runs the Social Enterprise Mark Twitter account, responds in this exclusive guest post.
So, about the Social Enterprise Mark tweet that was interpreted as alienating social entrepreneur, that was not my intention. Let me explain…
I’m Anne Mountjoy and I work as Marketing and Comms Manager for the Social Enterprise Mark. I’ve worked in the social enterprise sector since 2004 and before that I worked for an environmental charity. I’ve also been a director of a community recycling enterprise. I’m a member of Co-operative SW and buy co-op products and services whenever possible. I’ve got many friends working in social enterprise – having the Mark is not a consideration of that. I don’t discriminate or exclude anyone.
I’m passionate about my job and I believe we are working to make a positive difference to society. Everyone I work with feels this way.
The Mark Company is a social enterprise itself; working towards achieving the Mark. Our social aim is to increase recognition and the size of the sector. Profits are reinvested into the business, to help us run more campaigns, like 50in250 (which has directly positively impacted on the sales of social enterprises). We’re planning more campaigns to help social enterprises become more widely understood, recognised and bought from.
I believe there’s a way where fair trade can be replicated to help people choose to buy from social enterprises. So how are the mechanics of such a device developed? The Mark worked with the sector to agree and develop criteria that social enterprises could be benchmarked against. That’s where the Mark came from and it is constantly in development. I understand that not everyone will agree on the criteria, but the tide for social enterprise is turning and we’re travelling in the right direction. Who knows how the sector will evolve – and the Mark in response to it?
If people understand social enterprise because of the Mark, that’s got to be a good thing. The Mark is not about excluding social enterprises – the criteria are as inclusive as they can be when a benchmark is set. And the Mark encourages new entrants by accepting new starts. The reason the Mark is important is because private business is starting to see social enterprise as a business opportunity – I quoted A4E as the example in my tweet. In addition, social enterprise as ‘bid candy’ is a relatively new but becoming a common term. Personally, I think the private sector will always exist – and it has a part to play, but social enterprises deserve to be recognised for the extra they deliver.
I understand that there are many different ways social entrepreneurs work – some in social enterprises and some not. We’re giving social enterprises a tool to differentiate themselves from less scrupulous businesses hijacking the social enterprise agenda. The more social enterprises stand together – the bigger the impact will be. Let’s think positively about how much the sector can gain by standing on the same side – even if we don’t all agree.