Clients actually never ask me the social business question. They either assume that Stepping Out is - or don't really care about our structure.
The truth of the matter is that Stepping Out isn't, by UK legal definition a social business. There is no asset lock. The Directors own 80% of the company and can do as they please with 80% of the profits. The other 20% - of both the company and the net profit will go to invest in early stage social entrepreneurs working at community level. That is when there is a profit to distribute - a moot point for many in the social sector.
While I can't contest the social enterprise legal definition, I will say now why I think enterprises like mine should be allowed Guest Passes to the fold. Firstly, our commitment to redistribute profit goes well beyond minimalist CSR. Secondly, our time - the other key asset of any company - is given away generously to in-need clients. Thirdly, we are not profit-maximising and seek a variety of returns from this business.
I have said this before - there are thousands, possibly tens of thousands of firms in the UK just like ours which are, in essence, privately held but which subscribe to a broader view of their existence and indeed have the track-record to demonstrate this. Capitalism as a whole is, with many risible exceptions, slowly walking in this direction. At the moment, these companies have nowhere to go. CSR is largely working at the margins. For companies making substantial social contributions - but without the means or capital structure to go the full hog to social enterprise - there is very little formally there.
I believe that, in time, the Social Enterprise movement will see this gap and ride into it. It is not only a great opportunity for them but a chance to create real and productive alliances between progressive firms currently separated by the somewhat arbitrary lines set out the legal definitions of social enterprise.