50 voices: what does social enterprise mean to you? Theo Paphitis
To my mind you can have businesses that are a social enterprise and you can have businesses that include some form of social enterprise in their work. But the two are not the same. Having a social conscience or activity is hugely important in today’s world of business but that doesn’t make you a social enterprise.
Two of my companies for example, Ryman and Robert Dyas, are encouraged to participate in local social initiatives where their stores operate and further, actively support Comic Relief every year. They are committed to giving 100% of their sales from specific products to the charity, but I know full well this does not make us a social enterprise.
Sure, it’s a welcome by-product of what we do, and we are rightly proud of the millions of pounds raised over the years, but it’s not the primary reason why those two businesses exist and that’s the key difference. In contrast if a business’ only reason for living is to specifically make a difference to society or the environment, like the Big Issue for example, then it can rightfully be deemed a social enterprise.