New trade association makes its mark
Social enterprises in the south-west are piloting a new ‘kitemark’ which aims to spread the word about community-minded business.
The Social Enterprise Mark was set up by Rise, the regional network for social enterprises in the south-west. It was launched at The Eden Project, Cornwall, at the end of November, alongside a new social enterprise trade association. If the pilot project is a success the scheme could be rolled out nationwide by the Social Enterprise Coalition.
Hosting t~ launch event, Eden Project chief executive Tim Smith said: ‘I really welcome the Social Enterprise Mark as a first step to better business. We should celebrate the start of something so beneficial for consumers and social enterprise consumers.’
Eden is already using the mark (pictured), as are out-of-hours GP service Devon Doctors and Cosmic, a website design and IT training company based in east Devon.
There has been a degree of scepticism from some social enterprise businesspeople, who say the mark runs the risk of restricting flexibility and innovation.
However, Julie Harris, chief executive of Cosmic and chair of Rise, said the mark would help establish social enterprise to the same degree as the Fairtrade Mark and the Soil Association’s organic mark did in their sectors.
‘Cosmic has been going for 11 years and we have always struggled to get the consumer to understand our business. The opportunity the mark offers us in terms of promoting ourselves as possessing a certain level of quality is one we can’t afford to miss,’ she said.
‘The criticism has been by people who don’t understand it. It’s not aiming to duplicate, it’s addressing a gap in the market.’
Jonathan Bland, chief executive of the Social Enterprise Coalition, said the mark was an important step in promoting social enterprise to the public.
‘We welcome the launch of the Social Enterprise Mark and are very interested to explore the possibilities of rolling it out nationwide. This great pilot project could do a lot to position social enterprise squarely in the minds of consumers,’ he said.
‘As a movement, we need to do everything we can to raise awareness of the amazing work carried out by social enterprise in the south-west and across the whole country.’