One of the principle aims of the CIC was as an easy identifier for social enterprises, but this seems not to have happened in the way people hoped – perhaps because as a legal form CICs offer no features that are inherently unique (i.e. protected asset locks and principle purposes can be entrenched in other legal forms, although they are regulated and managed in different ways).
But we now have the shiny new Social Enterprise Mark, which will hopefully have a better chance of being the easy identifier as it’s based on recognising defining characteristics of social enterprise in whatever legal form or structured they are enshrined.
BUT... will this Mark spark a new market for ‘marks’? The Soil Association and FairTrade Foundation were both pioneers in certifying organic and fairly traded goods, but other organisations offering organic and fair trade certifications have since emerged...
So perhaps we should be more open to the other ‘marks’ that are available to social enterprises to seek (the Social Firms Star for instance), and welcome others’ attempts to introduce other standards (there’s moves for a worker co-op mark, and Scotland did look at having its own mark as well) and explore how they might best complement each other.
Ultimately though, the Social Enterprise Mark shouldn’t be a holy grail, but one of a number of tools that we should approach and consider its appropriateness to us in the context of our enterprises’ own needs and marketplaces. Some will take the mark and use it to great commercial advantage I’m sure, while for others it simply won’t be relevant...
links to references -
social enterprise characteristics: http://www.top10tips.co.uk/uk/small-business/pre-start-up/social-enterprise-get-it-right.php
Social Firms Star Mark: http://www.starsocialfirms.co.uk/
Social Enterprise Mark: http://www.socialenterprisemark.org.uk/
Scotland's almost social enterprise mark: http://regenandrenewal.blogspot.com/2010/03/senscot-eyes-scottish-social-enterprise.html