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We’ve been certified – and it’s a good thing

by Andy Redfern on March 15, 2021

Big news – we have achieved social enterprise status and we can now call ourselves a certified social enterprise!

Now that simple statement begs a lot of questions…

What is a social enterprise?

Good question! The word “social” has become over-used especially in the realm of social media – a social enterprise is not looking to become a Facebook clone. Social in this case means people and is about the business bringing some social “good”. Social Enterprise UK defines it in this way:

Social enterprises are businesses that are changing the world for the better. Like traditional businesses they aim to make a profit, but it’s what they do with their profits that sets them apart – reinvesting or donating them to create positive social change.  Social enterprises are in our communities and on our high streets – from coffee shops and cinemas, to pubs and leisure centres, banks and bus companies.

Social Enterprise UK website 2021

So you may not realise you have, but in a pre-pandemic world you probably came into contact with social enterprises almost every day. The Big Issue, Divine Chocolate, Cafedirect and the Eden Project are all nationally known social enterprises. Locally Jesmond Pool and housing associations like Home Group are run as social enterprises.

Social Enterprise = a business for good

Ok so is this  just feel-good marketing for businesses who are pretending to charities?

Oooh - you cynic. The truth is somewhat different. There are two ways in which businesses can take the assets they have and stop them being available for their social good – dividend payments to shareholders and transfer of assets to businesses who run purely for profit and have no social goals.

Social Enterprises are different in that they limit the dividends that can be paid and prevent the transfer of assets to other organisations.

So yes, Green Heart Collective is a business and not a charity, but our articles of association that govern how we are run include a restriction on how much of our profit we can pay as dividends (currently set at 50%) and that we have a “lock” on the business assets so that they can only be passed on to a like-minded organisation if we were to cease trading.

So not only do we want to do the right thing, we are legally obliged to do so.

And in case you were wondering, the good that we are trying to do is also included in our articles of association:

Green Heart Collective aims to divert waste away from landfill and give it a second life. It aims to divert 100 tons of waste over the next 2 years. Through this practical action we raise awareness of the climate emergency. Our primary aim is directly impact on the environmental waste in our locality. There are several secondary beneficiaries. For consumers, we offer good value products that have been given a new lease of life. For businesses, we offer an alternative to landfill for your returns, rejects and production failures. For the poor and vulnerable locally, we offer free and discounted items. Through community outreach, GHC will collect waste, process it and divert it away from landfill. This will include selling online, at local events and working with local charities.

Green Heart Collective Ltd articles of association

All sounds good – but how are you certified?

Another good question and one that lots of organisations have had to grapple with. Government departments, local councils and other values-based organisations believe that social enterprises can be a great way of delivering positive change, but how do you stop shareholders from taking the profit made from government support?

That’s where Social Enterprise UK steps in to set standards of how social enterprises should function and then make sure that those principles are set in the company’s DNA.

So Green Heart Collective is proud to be a member of Social Enterprise UK – you can see our member profile on its website.

Sounds amazing – how can I get involved in what you are doing?

Never thought you would ask – there are lots of ways you can get involved – buy from us, donate goods, sign up for our newsletter, spread the word to friends and family or volunteer with us. You can read more here.

Sounds interesting – how can my business become a social enterprise?

Inspired by what we are trying to do and what to do something similar in your business? Take a look at https://getpurpose.ly/  - a great place to consider how to put your objectives and goals into the business’s legal framework. We used it and it worked well.

If becoming a certified social enterprise is your next step, then do visit Social Enterprise UK for more information on joining.

And if you want to be inspired, read about some of the amazing people out there who are changing their local communities for good:

  • Amy and Ruth Anslow at hiSbe in Brighton
  • Fair for You working to stop people with poor credit history getting ripped off by predatory lenders ( )
  • Even the boring world of office supplies can be made interesting when your photocopier paper is bringing hope to female entrepreneurs around the world through Wildhearts.
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