Social enterprise mark in Finland

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Finland tipped to start international roll out of Social Enterprise Mark

See also: Development of social enterprise concept

9 February 2011 by Gemma Hampson

The Social Enterprise Mark could launch in Finland in the first step of an international roll out.

The Social Enterprise Mark Company, which runs the branding programme for UK social enterprises, is in talks with Finnish social enterprise support organisation Syfo about expanding the existing Mark. Talks started in September and there is not yet a date for a possible launch.

Mark company CEO Lucy Findlay said it made sense to choose Finland as the first European launch country because of a previous partnership with Rise, the south west social enterprise network that set up the Mark, and because of its interest and support for the initiative since it began in 2007. It is hoped that, if the Mark gets the go ahead in Finland and is a success, it could set a blueprint for a roll out across Europe and internationally. Findlay said there has already been interest in the Mark from the US, Canada and Australia.

Syfo has seen interest from the Finnish and European government in both its work to promote social enterprise and its possible collaboration with the Mark.

Findlay said: ‘A possible roll out comes at a good time as Finland has been having a debate about what social enterprise is. The country has a legal structure called a social enterprise, which includes tax breaks, but it’s more like what we in the UK call a social firm. There was a realisation that this definition was too narrow. It means that no one really knows how many social enterprises there are in Finland.’

Findlay added that the talks with Finland were very positive and showed the strength of the national Mark, which celebrates its first birthday this month. It has already been trademarked internationally in preparation for a roll out.

‘Syfo has some money to take its work forward, so it’s looking very positive, although it’s still in its early days,' she said. ‘If we go forward with this, it could make it easier to roll out into other areas. There’s a lot of interest in the identity of social enterprise internationally and we have already had Mark applications and emails from as far as the US, Canada and Australia.’

Jaana Merenmies, CEO of Syfo, added: ‘We see there has been remarkable development of the Social Enterprise Mark done. We are looking for an international Mark for social enterprises, and we are negotiating with the Social Enterprise Mark Company on co-operation.’

There are now 372 Mark holders in the UK, each of which paid £99 to become a member. This introductory rate has now increased with membership starting from £350, depending on turnover.

The talks in Finland are being aided by former Social Enterprise Coalition CEO Jonathan Bland, who is a social enterprise advisor to the Finnish government following his move there last year.

Source: Social Enterprise Live, 9 Feb 11: http://www.socialenterpriselive.com/section/news/community/20110209/finland-tipped-start-international-roll-out-social-enterprise-mark