Government review “disappoints” say Social Enterprise UK

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The CEO of Social Enterprise UK has responded to the Cabinet Office announcement that they will conduct a mission-led business review. Peter Holbrook isn’t happy with the Call for Evidence on mission-led businesses review put forward by the Government. He says their expert panel is missing key business voices.

Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise UK, today said: “It’s not uncommon for Government reviews to disappoint, but it’s quite rare for a review to disappoint before it has even begun. Yet that is the view from many within the social economy sector at the Government’s review of mission-led businesses. 

“We acknowledge that social investment is a market with currently too few takers. One good response could be to improve the product. Another good answer could be to build capacity of start-ups to increase supply of investment-ready social enterprises. A further one could be to build awareness amongst commissioners to create more opportunities. All of these could be a good use of limited resources, but judging by the nature of the review team, the Government intends to broaden the social investment market by watering down the definition of what ‘social’ is. 

“People keep calling for clarity of terminology, yet it keeps being added to with ill-defined terms which conflate and confuse. All social enterprises and charities are mission-led but aren’t included in the scope of this review – all our members are interested in profit and impact. It will be difficult to communicate clearly as a profit-with-purpose, mission-led, community-business social venture – because not even the organisation itself will know what it means. 

“Quick fixes tend to turn out as bodged jobs. The expert advisory panel is missing authentic voices of recognised, established and trusted social businesses. Where are the historical insights of the likes of Timpson, Rowntree, John Lewis, Lush, and decades of Quaker-inspired businesses? Where are the voices of social enterprise and co-operatives bringing their expertise in the field? Let us hope that the review group draws on the experience of a wider set of perspectives. The insights of those who have set about protecting a social purpose, with or without success, is critical.

“It is crucial that we strengthen the social responsibility of mainstream businesses, which is why it is disappointing that the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills do not appear to be backing this review.”