Want To Buy From Social Enterprises? There’s a Map For That

We label organic cotton, fair-trade products, and safety practices, but what about good business? Social enterprises are often associated with the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profits as equals. Now, there is a label to distinguish social enterprises from other companies, consider it a business label. The Social Enterprise Mark certifies businesses that have put social and environmental causes first. It is the only social enterprise certification on the market, and it currently is based in the UK.

One of the major benefits of being the single social enterprise label on the market, is the initial impact and differentiation it provides for businesses. Both shoppers and businesses can make decisions based on the mark as a tool for understanding the business they are supporting. With 74% of consumers preferring to purchase from companies with social and environmental efforts, the business gain is immediate. Studies found that over 88% of commissioners prefer to give work to companies with these types of values over other companies if their bids were equal. The goal is to create an established presence in the minds of customers and businesses so that choosing companies that are certified signifies a business decision.

Not just any company can apply for the Mark. Companies that are focused on social or environmental objectives, and leverage their profits to invest in their work or community are considered social enterprises. The Mark not only identifies these companies, but is helping promote a more closed loop system where money is reinvested locally and in more ethical work than simply profit maximization business plans. Since social enterprise doesn’t apply to just one industry, but instead to all sectors of growth, the Mark has the potential to make a significant impact in putting the decisions and rewards in the hands of consumers.

The Mark opens the door for certifications that move beyond the material inputs and manufacturing of products. Under this type of certification service-companies can also gain a label to better communicate their values more simply and universally. Since the majority of market tools today focus on material and labor inputs, this effort to create greater transparency and recognition for mission statements and values of businesses is an important step to the company of the 21st century.

Time will tell if this eco-label will expand beyond the UK and be embraced globally. It certainly has the potential to do so, as consumers are demanding more information about material inputs, they may also turn and demand more information about the intentions of a company. What better way to highlight that consistently than with a standard? Others fear that this will add to the jumble of labels on the market that send consumers into information overload and eventually inaction. Perhaps the UK is playing the part of the pilot program for the market-readiness of this idea. Either way, it will dictate whether consumers and business alike are ready for this progression toward social enterprise recognition in the marketplace.

For more information, visit Social Enterprise Mark.

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