Have I arrived at an answer about what a social enterprise is? Of course not! Again this week my perceptions of what a social enterprise is and who can call themselves this were shaken to the core! Ok, not quite, but I’m loving still learning and questioning what I really know about this sector.
I accepted a long time ago that being a social enterprise is fluid. This is one of the most appealing things about it. It allows us to evolve and develop. This can also be abused by those that want the social kudos.
For me social enterprise has encapsulated charities and very broadly not-for-private-profit social businesses (of which we are one alongside Belu Water or Miss Maccaroon). This is an evolving spectrum.
As part of #SocialSaturday we heard last week from both Adnams and PwC. They are both very committed to having a meaningful impact on society. They are going considerably further than traditional Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
Whilst many businesses may do amazing things in their community, be environmentally sustainable and have a social impact as a result, is that enough to call themselves a social enterprise? No!
In my view the difference lies in your core mission (let alone what you do with your profit). Is your core mission a social one? If it’s not then you’re a business with some very good social values etc etc. This isn’t worse or better. It’s different. I think for now that a distinction is valuable, or we will lose what little focus the social enterprise sector has and benefits from.
Our social mission and reason for existence is to prevent homelessness. No matter how many solar panels Shell puts on its oil rigs – it doesn’t have a social mission and I won’t be calling it a social enterprise any time soon.