What is the Code of Social Enterprises?
The Code of Social Enterprises was initiated by Dutch social funders in 2017 and is based on principles that recognise impact-first social entrepreneurship. It has a strict set of criteria that awardees abide by and a rigorous testing process before participation can be considered. Inclusion of the Sea Ranger Service in the Code of Social Enterprise register is a validation that the company is structured and run in such a way that guarantees it works towards achieving impact first.
Everything we do is to achieve impact. This certification helps us to clarify how all the different aspects of our work reinforce each other to reach our ambitious mission.
Effie Baert, Chief Development Officer
Effie Baert, Chief Development Officer at the Sea Ranger Service, and instrumental to our successful admission to the Code of Social Enterprises explains about the main principles of the Code of Social Enterprises, and the process the organisation has gone through to be included.
The Code is principle based and follows five core principles: mission, stakeholders, finance, implementation and transparency. We’ll quickly explain how these work…
Mission. This principle guarantees that the social enterprise has an ‘impact first’ mentality. This impact needs to be guaranteed and have strict measurable goals. Our goals at the Sea Ranger Service are clear, to restore 1 million hectares of ocean biodiversity by 2040, whilst training 20,000 young people towards a maritime career. We always keep our mission in mind when planning projects, deciding on strategy and further developing our business model. It is the backbone of what we do.
Stakeholders. Identifying stakeholders and how you communicate with them is the second principle. At the Sea Ranger Service we work with stakeholders from different sectors, who often have a very different line of work. By finding common ground with perhaps uncommon partners we are able to achieve remarkable results. As such we work together with investors to start and continue the growth of our business. We deliver offshore services for different clients and government agencies. We work together with our partners to deliver innovative scientific solutions to our oceans problems. Bootcamp participants join our training programme to develop themselves and to become Sea Rangers. And of course our dedicated team without whom all of the above would not be possible to do. Last but not least, the marine environment is our biggest stakeholder, as are future generations that rely on our actions today to shape a better future.
Finance. Due to the fact that the first core principle is to be impact led, this makes monetary profit not the main goal of a social enterprise. As such our governance model is set up in a way that profits will flow back into the organisation and towards accomplishing our mission. Luckily, a new brand of investor, known as impact investors, are actively investing to achieve positive impact, instead of seeking short-term profits. A group of 20 investors has so far financed the establishment, development and growth of the Sea Ranger Service, including social impact funds, wealthy philanthropists and private investors. This community is closely involved in keeping a critical eye on the company, ensuring that the right steps are taken to stay mission-oriented and focused on achieving impact.
Transparency. As part of the register, all social enterprises pursue an active information policy where information is readily communicated, both internally in the organisation, and with the outside world. This need for transparency is not just limited to financial matters either, all aspects including impact, governance and targets are encouraged to be shared openly and honestly. Some organisations might find this level of transparency a hindrance or even something to be avoided, but for us it is a strength. It helps us reflect and learn from our previous decisions and achievements, and of equal importance it helps the other organisations in our community to learn and grow as well.
Implementation. Being part of the Code of Social Enterprises means being an active member of the community. All enterprises are encouraged to proactively communicate with each other, offer constructive guidance, and generally be supportive of each other. This helps keep the community strong.
We are in good company
Part of what we are really looking forward to now that we are part of this register is the ability to be able to meet other like minded people and organisations. Some of our favourites that we have come across so far are;
- Starters 4 Communities who help train young professionals into social entrepreneurs.
- Better Places, a travel company on a mission to make tourism more sustainable
- Im Power who find peer coaches for people struggling to find jobs
- Werk Saam Beter who are championing an inclusive approach to the labor market
High standards to uphold
Part of what gives this register such a high standard is the need for us to always be on top of our game. Just because we have been admitted does not mean we can relax now. Over the next few years we submit ourselves to the peer review process, meaning that we come under scrutiny from other social enterprises within the register.
This is something that we welcome, as we believe that a good community of open and honest feedback and guidance will only make us all stronger.
Here’s one final word from Effie Baert about the process; “It was really interesting to go through the application process as it encouraged us to dive deep into a lot of aspects of the organisation and put into focus why exactly we are a social enterprise, and as such belong in the register. To make everything we do explicit around the impact first principle strengthened us to become ever clearer in how all aspects of our work reinforce each other to reach our mission.”
Demonstrating the high standards that we hold ourselves to, is also important for us as we launch our franchising programme. This accreditation shows the the level we want all new franchises to perform at.