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What Is A Social Firm?

A Social Firm is a market-led enterprise set up specifically to create good quality jobs for people disadvantaged in the labour market.

To view the video "Social Firms: successful businesses, empowering employment", which explains what Social Firms are, visit: http://resources.socialfirms.co.uk/index.php?q=node/542


An emerging Social Firm is an enterprise that is working towards becoming a Social Firm, usually in the early stages of trading and not yet in a position to employ numbers of people, but working to a business plan which illustrates how they're going to achieve their goal.

The Social Firm sector is the collective term used for emerging Social Firms and Social Firms.

The business activities of Social Firms vary widely. Case studies are available which reflect this diversity (www.socialfirms.co.uk/index.php/Section5.html).

There are three core values that Social Firms will subscribe to within their businesses, orientated around Enterprise, Employment and Empowerment:

EnterpriseSocial Firms are businesses that combine a market orientation and a social mission (‘businesses that support’ rather than ‘projects that trade’):

  • At least 50% of the firm’s turnover is earned through sales of goods and/or services. (Lowest for Social Firms April 2005 - 66%)
  • The firm has an appropriate legal status. It must not be governed or driven by individual profit (except for worker co-operatives). Remote shareholders must not extract unreasonable profit.
  • The firm is trading and follows business processes, such as having a business plan in place.
  • The firm has a constitution or written guiding principles that reflect its employment objective concerning disadvantaged people.
  • The firm has a management structure that supports trading as the firm’s primary purpose.
EmploymentSocial Firms are supportive workplaces where the working environment is one that provides all employees with support, opportunity and meaningful work:
  • More than 25% of employees are disadvantaged people.
  • All employees have a contract of employment and market wage at or above national minimum wage.
  • An equal approach is taken to the type of employment contracts used (permanent, fixed term, temporary) between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged staff.
  • The firm operates processes to engage employees in their own and the organisation’s development.
  • The firm has procedures and policies in place in respect of Equal Opportunities and Health and Safety.
  • The firm is compliant with relevant employers' legislation e.g. Disability Discrimination Act and National Minimum Wage.
  • All employees have the opportunity to progress either within the Social Firm or into alternative employment as appropriate.
  • The firm is acknowledged as a good employer by employees and stakeholders.
  • The firm is acknowledged as a good employer through an external accreditation process.
EmpowermentSocial Firms are committed to the social and economic integration of disadvantaged people through employment. A key means to this end is economic empowerment through the payment of market wages to all employees:
  • Reasonable adjustments are made for employees relevant to their needs.
  • Staff development is a priority for the firm to maximise each employee’s ability and potential.
  • There are processes in place for managing stress. Staff are encouraged to have control over their working environment.
  • The firm demonstrates a commitment to maintaining staff confidentiality. There is a procedure in place that demonstrates when staff have agreed what information can be shared.
  • Volunteers have agreements that reflect good practice in volunteering.
  • The firm provides Disadvantage/Disability Equality and Awareness training to all staff as appropriate (e.g. mental health awareness).
  • The firm has an added emphasis on training for disadvantaged staff. Training reinforces and builds on learning and takes account of developing social skills as appropriate.
  • The firm’s organisational structure is enabling and encourages staff to participate in business decisions as appropriate.
  • Trainees, work experience candidates and volunteers have different programmes and responsibilities to those of employees. Training should be time-limited and should lead to an award once competences are achieved.

Developing A 'Standard' For Social Firms
Social Firms UK is developing a 'standard'/accreditation system for Social Firms. Sally Reynolds recently shared information about this at a CEFEC conference in Seville in October 2006.

Mark Powell of Broomby Chats About The Importance Of Social Firms (July 2007)
While at the Social Firms UK conference in July 2007, Mark gave an interview to Social Enterprise Podcasts. In it he talks about how he came to work in the Social Firm sector, the importance of Social Firms and the need for more to be set up. To listen visit:

What Is A Social Firm?

Back to What Is A Social Firm?

>What Is The Difference Between Social Firms And Social Enterprises?

>What Is The History Of The Social Firm Movement?

>What Are The Main Issues Facing Social Firms At The Moment?

>How Do I Set Up A Social Firm? Is There Any Guidance On The Structure, Finance And How It Should Be Run?

>I Have An Idea For a Social Firm. How Can I Tell If It Will Work?

>Is There An Accreditation System To Show You Are A Social Firm?

>What Types Of Training And Business Support Are Available To Social Firms?

>How Can We Externalise Our Project From The Local Authority? Are There Any Examples Of When This Has Been Done Successfully?

>I Run A Social Firm. Can You Recommend An Insurance Company Sympathetic To Social Firms?

>Is There A List Of Consultants Who Have Expertise In Social Firms?

>Where Can I Find A List Of Social Firms In My Region?

>How Can I Find A Job In A Social Firm?

>What Work Options Are There For A Disabled Person Following A Long Period Of Unemployment?

>Where Can I Find Information About Benefits Allowances And General Benefits Advice?

>What If A Private Investor Wants To Get Involved In Setting Up A Social Firm?

>Are There Organisations Equivalent To Social Firms UK In Other Countries?

>I Am Coming To The UK And Am Interested In Comparing Social Firms Here To Those In My Country. Is It Possible To Visit Any Social Firms?

>What Are The Issues About Having Trustees With Learning Difficulties?

>What Is A CIC (Community Interest Company)?

>What Is A Social Entrepreneur?

>Why Should I Join Social Firms UK?

>How Do Social Firms Sit Within The Spectrum Of Employment Provision For Disabled People?

>What Are The Likely Other Sources Of Finance For Social Firms?

>Why Was The Definition Of A Social Firm Broadened To The 'Severely Disadvantaged' In 2006

>What Is A Social Enterprise And What Types Are There?

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