CIC Association

Serving Community Enterprise

I've been thinking again about John's discussion on the social enterprise mark, and want to develop it in a slightly different direction.

The best thing about the mark is the strapline - 'trading for people and planet'.  It does actually tell you something (unlike the mark itself or indeed the term 'social enterprise', as they use it).

I was talking to the CIC Regulator and others yesterday and there was broad agreement that CICs do not just share a legal structure, but much more.  The structure for most of us reflects an underlying set of values around enterprise for community benefit.  But we haven't yet got a simple shared way of communicating this identity

I've noticed many CICs using the CIC Association logo on their letterheads etc - which I think proves the demand for this - but I think a mark that communicates a bit more about CIC values would be widely appreciated.

While I think we should avoid setting up a rival social enterprise mark - that would be really divisive - and therefore we should avoid the increasingly contentious 'social enterprise' term - I do think we should look at strengthening the CIC identity with some kind of graphic and strapline that puts across the message that we have made a real commitment to a set of shared values, and not just to a convenient legal structure.

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"another social enterprise mark" - why not?

looking at the marketplace there are already a few that social enterprises can apply for ( but given the general lack of understanding amongst society as to what social enterprise 'is' being 'divisive' through a new mark would only principally hamper the wider movement (, and its on those grounds that I agree with you.


What you're talking about is a common brand that would be universally shared amongst CICs.

A nice idea, and maybe we should be inviting those marketeers amongst the Association's membership to join us in considering how to best develop 'brand CIC'...

As the creator / designer of the (divisive?!) social enterprise brand I would happily create a CIC brand values identifier.

Its definitely on the agenda to discuss,  we'll have to do something around this for an online awareness campaign that we have agreed (in principle) so I'll definitely be getting in touch shortly.

not another social enterprise mark! Adrian, you know the reasons and they are well described elsewhere!!


as you mentioned this Geof it immediately made sense, the Association logo is ok but refining it makes a lot of sense. A competition for a new strapline? 


I must say that I would want to keep it free, unless there are some very strong reasons for charging . Im suggesting we simply have the qualifying criteria that if your a CIC, you can use it.


Moving forward, we could look to do a similar logo that Co-ops and trading Charities could aware that'll spark discussions so would suggest its a separate conversation

just to expand a little to avoid confusion on my I have said in previous discussions about the social enterprise mark I do not see why a CIC should have to pay for a second audit as we already have a regulatory process that is robust

4.2.1 Badging the sector- Value placed on SE mark

Generalised promotion of a social enterprise ‘brand’ could be constructive – the majority of the sample felt that the general public were largely unaware of what a SE was, and that using the term ‘social enterprise’ had little impact with the public or with funders.

In general, our sample regarded business sector-specific or generic quality standards as more useful than civil society ones – such standards communicated competence or excellence in their business to potential funders, helping them win contracts. The SE Mark, however, was not seen as being of benefit by the majority of organisations, as it did not lead to publicity or recognition among the public (given the lack of knowledge about the definition of social enterprise), nor was it required or requested as desirable by funders.

One organisation said that ‘the Social Enterprise Mark would not impress anyone as it stands’, another considered that simply being a registered charity was more helpful to winning business than any current kitemarks, while a third indicated that the SE mark had been of relatively little use in terms of winning business or publicity. The local newspaper did not run a story about this organisation obtaining the SE mark, even winning the 2006 Social Enterprise of the Year award led to only a small news item, after substantial effort on their part. One of the larger, more business-oriented organisations in the sample volunteered that, while the SE mark would be unlikely to make any difference to them, they would be happy to sign up in order to set an example and give weight to the term.

By contrast the Fairtrade Mark was seen by the Fairtrade organisation as being inextricably linked to the product being sold (rather than the organisation’s legal format) and a brand with which consumers are already familiar. Not only does the Fairtrade Mark have greater public awareness but it has meaning in that it can confidently be assured against a strict set of standards, while the SE Mark could not be so reliably audited and assured.

I'm not convinced that yet another branding will help.  Our own "strapline" which pre-dates the SE Mark is People, Planet, Profit and Principles. Does that make it any more authentic? Probably not.

The 'only under my banner' mentality is for me something that holds social enterprise back. 

People and Planet was the focus of our work for Sumy State University on Economics in Transition. The 2009 seminar ended with these words about the need to work together to fix a broken economy    

"The question at hand is what to do next, and how to do it.  We all get to invent whatever new economics system that comes next, because we must."

Take your point Jeff, but this wouldnt be an exercise to attempt a branding for SE as a whole, more a simple extension of the existing CIC Association logo for use by CICs.

The 'only under my banner' culture and differing definitions of SE may well have held SE back, I dont think we as CICs should be want on waiting for that issue to be solved before moving ahead with our own efforts to raise awareness.


Yes - I think the Durham research refers to a fundamental flaw in the original thinking behind the SEM - a false analogy with successes like the Fairtrade Mark.

The social enterprise movement is actually more like the environmental movement: you can do your bit by insulating your loft and getting a bike – or you can go completely off-grid and grapple with composting toilets – the movement embraces you all.  Within this, there are many ‘marks’ – like the Soil Association organic standard – that for sure have their specific criteria and usefulness – but nobody claims they are THE Environmental Mark.

A CIC Mark would work where a 'social enterprise mark' cannot work precisely because CICs are already a clearly defined and independently regulated constituency.  No need for contentious or expensive monitoring or value judgments.  It would not be part of an 'only under my banner' culture - which I agree has been very divisive - because nobody would claim that CICs are the ONLY legal structure, just as nobody claims a technical organic standard defines environmentalism as a whole.



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