CIC Association

Serving Community Enterprise

Social Enterprise Mark - A double audit fee for CICs?

Update Feb 10 2011- With the recent increase in the Social Enterprise Mark fee to £350 a year from £99, a number of members have moaned to me that we still havent made any progress on the points made in this original post.


1. What shall we do, if anything?  They dont want to address our concerns and the criteria still split CICs, Co-ops and Charities..some can, some cant. 


2. Is 372 members a good return for £1million of taxpayers money? Thats over £2500 per member, why have they increased the fee's by so much?


3. The Association received a phone call from BMG, who are conducting the State of social enterprise survey for the SEC, who back the Mark and are part owners, apparently the Association ISNT a social enterprise.......what do you guys think of that?  should CICs stop trying to be part of it and position ourselves as more than social enterprise? Part of the Third Sector??


4. One suggestion has been to offer a social business mark to all CICs for free? opinion?


Im confused and a little tired with this, how can we finally get to a situation where I dont have to bother anymore?  


Your guidance please


Hi Everyone

The brand identifier has been delayed, and we want to use this time to gather more member opinion on it and feed that back into the powers that be. It seems we are all very keen to improve awareness, which is the aim of the Identifier, but it doesnt seem to be a popular product with a few serious problems.

We'd like to hear your opinion whatever it is, so far we've had a range of opinions in from members but a couple of clear themes are emerging. I hope to stimulate the debate by making a couple of statements as a default position, and will adapt them subject to your feedback. It would be great if you could post your replies onto this blog, but im aware some of you would prefer to email me direct at

We hope to get a chance to put your views before any decisions are made.

1. CIC Association CIC members feel it would be unfair on CICs to have to pay a second audit fee for the Mark , when we pay for and prove our status as social enterprise via the Regulator. Having to pay this charge every year would be unfair to CICs , who already prove their status to the Regulator every year with our Annual Community Interest Test. We want an exemption for CICs from having to pay any second audit fee to be able to use the Social Enterprise Mark.

2. CICs would like to ensure any awareness campaigns include CICs and explanations of what CIC is what we as practitioners do. We'd like to ensure we maximise the opportunity to raise CIC awareness at the same time, as we have no awareness budget.

On a lighter note, we 've just burst through the 500 members and have some really positive announcements coming shortly, keep those suggestions and offers coming!


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Comment by David Floyd on February 11, 2011 at 19:10



I don't think it's worth expending further energy on the Mark discussion. As you know, I'm not a supporter and share many of your concerns but I'm very busy and I'd rather focus my energy on running my CIC and other positive activity rather than campaigning against the Mark.


I think the CIC Association should make members aware of the different forms of accreditation available and let them take their own decisions.

Comment by John Mulkerrin on February 11, 2011 at 19:01

debate is good Geof, no matter the individual opinion we can all learn from it, and it should make what we do more robust.  The shenanigans around certain organisations and ideaologies aside, im absolutely buzzing and proud to be part of the wider collective doing good (or trying to at least)

Yeah, its hippie, but im humbled by the work members do, and fired up to have the opportunity to be part of it.

The paper trail on my efforts for the Association goes back to 2008, and Im more than happy to be judged on it. Not everyone can say that.

Its enough for me to know that CIC is now able to organise for itself (still limited yes, but improving by the day), but it would be so much easier if we didnt have to take the long road.......perfect example for me was the debate in parliament this week by the Dover MP discussing the closure of a residential care home, if we had CIC Bonds ready we could have got stuck into that.


We will have them ready soon though, Ive said CIC is a baby Giant and im going to stand or fall on that.

Comment by Robert Ashton on February 11, 2011 at 19:00
If holding the SE Mark does not help you differentiate in your marketplace,, it's not worth having in my view. These are not times for luxuries - just what delivers a measurable return
Comment by Geof Cox on February 11, 2011 at 18:16
I'm sure everyone is tired of me popping up in this debate but I just have to tell Nick - what you're describing is precisely the ethiscore alternative I mentioned earlier - it's a great scheme run by a social enterprise - if only the £1million had gone their way...
Comment by Nick Comley on February 11, 2011 at 17:25

What does the SEM tell you about an organisation? Essentially that it meets the minimum requirement set by a trade body to qualify to use a trademark. It's the same as the Federation of Master Builders or Trustmark schemes, what do they actually tell you?

What I would suggest we need is a social value and impact scale like the Food Standards Agency Traffic Light Scheme that would tell you something about any organisation, social enterprise or not. Measured against the impact in a number of areas such as social change, environmental impact, corporate social responsibility, ethical trading and local economic multiplier.

That way people can make an informed choice about who they choose to invest their own money into purchasing their goods or services. Trouble is it would cost much more and be a nightmare to administer, probably a perfect programme for a government initiaitive then? SEM? I don't need no badge to hide behind, if you want to know why we're a social enterprise, ask us.

Comment by John Mulkerrin on February 11, 2011 at 14:17

Mat- Who is sitting back, pontificating and deriding other initiatives?  Very good question, I can start to answer that by asking another....... why hasnt CIC had a single penny of support from Social Enterprise organisations since it was brought into being? 

Why didnt we get the chance to make a case for CICs to get the £200k that was the latest tranche of funds given to the SEMark?  I stated that we could get a better return for the TAXPAYERS money, didnt even get the chance, despite by that time proving we were able to achieve and there was a distinct set of issues that, if solved, would help unleash the practical opportunities of CIC.  Your thoughts on that Mat? 

I'm 100% committed to raising awareness of the social economy, ive put my money, time and effort where my mouth is as far as thats concerned.




CIC development whatsoever? Another question that I pose and hope you will try an answer, as Im struggling to find a reason, especially when they have had millions from Govt over the last five years.




Comment by Geof Cox on February 11, 2011 at 13:57
And a footnote to Bob's comment - nobody believes the 55,000 social enterprises figure anymore - not even the Cabinet office/ASBS people that originally invented it.  A bit of text in my comment was technologically garbled, but should have said that there are probably at least a third of a million people and organisations in the UK using business models and methods to achieve their social mission.  The relevant current research is here.
Comment by Bob Northey on February 11, 2011 at 12:44

As far as I know the £99 introductory offer rate for Social Enterprise Mark holders applies for the first two years.  I'm sure this has been a good deal and resulted in the strong level of interest and growth of Mark holders to 370 (to date).  My Google map shows where they are - looks like Finland will appear before long!

The SEM business proposition has clearly been to build the brand by quickly growing the numbers even though this must have cost the SEM company rather than contributed to the coffers.  The new scale of charges starting at £350 will be the true test of confidence in the Mark as a commercially viable fee.  Potential Mark holders will think much more about their return on investment and will need to be convinced of the benefits of Mark accreditation.  The next year or so will tell its own story.


As a CIC director I am totally comfortable with our CIC social enterprise credentials and we all recognise the rapid growth of CICs across the UK.  With modest costs we enjoy annual endorsement of our social enterprises and are widely recognised as a most acceptable business entity. 


Going forward it would be useful for CIC Association to survey its CIC members who have the Mark to assess the level of benefits derived from the Mark - this may convince some of the doubters.


On a final note, SE Mark holders currently represent almost 0.7% of social enterprises by the government's modest estimate of 55,000.  CIC's have clearly passed the tipping point.

Comment by Irene Yvonne Lindsay on February 11, 2011 at 12:03

Don't over complicate life. I am placing 'Social Business' on all my letterheads, why pay for a 'mark' and what added affect would it have?

The Big Lottery pays 40% towards statutory organisations, that was a stealthy move that not many know of. Now they are able to dip into more charitable funding by becoming CIC's.

These things don't happen by accident, Government has planned this as it is running out of money to pay public staff, they are turning many departments into CIC's. This follows on nicely their policy of consultation with the third sector, which furnished them with all our information. Now we are finding local govt. departments doing exactly the same projects and becoming CIC's and sucking up money to pay their salaries.

Am I cynical? You bet!

Comment by Tony Kemshall on February 11, 2011 at 11:10
I am far from a fan of the phrase "the Third Sector"! It is the whole tone of coming third that has given rise to the thinking re the Local Enterprise Partnerships , seen as vital important "partnerships" between the Public sector via Local  Councilsb aND THE private sector ... third doesnt count. I much prefer the phrase "The Social Economy" to define the range of the sector.Then replace "not for profit" by a far more accurate "greater then profit" as a reference to a multiple of bottom lines. A CIC or any other organisation that applies for any "kite" mark does so because they feel it is to their advantage. CICs are social enterprise without doubt but they already have their ethos status confirmed. It is a matter of choice. Start a Social Economy Kite mark and be done with it .


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