We are a Social Enterprise

What does it mean to be a certified Social Enterprise?

Posted: 4 Sep 2019

Useful Projects is a certified Social Enterprise (SE), but what does this mean in practice?

Social Enterprises are one of the most exciting and fastest growing parts of the economy. They are business, but not as you know it.

A SE is a business that trades to tackle social problems, improve communities, people’s life chances, or the environment. They come in all sizes, from small community cafés to really big international organisations.

The SE movement is a growing, worldwide network of businesses that exist to change the world for the better. This might sound like charity work, but Social Enterprises are businesses. They make and do things that earn money and make profits like any business. It is how they work and what they do with their profits that is different: working to make a bigger difference, reinvesting the profits they make to do ‘more good’ in communities and across industries.

There are over 100,000 SEs in the UK, employing more than two million people and contributing £60bn to the economy each year.

How to qualify as a Social Enterprise

SE’s must be primarily dedicated to social and/or environmental objectives by:

  • Reinvesting profits into education and research,
  • Donating design skills to projects with a high social cause,
  • Design to minimise the use of resources and maximise the ability for reuse.

One criterion for being a SE is to have a clear mission set out in our governing documents. Our purpose is to blaze a trail in the integrated, intelligent and ethical provision of the human environment.

Collectively, our mission as the Useful Simple Group is to improve the human environment by delivering useful, simple outcomes that are beautiful and good. We are independent with no shareholders, and employee wellbeing is at the heart of our ethos.

What an SE does with its profits is a critical way in which we are distinct from standard businesses. The majority of our profits are reinvested into setting up projects and initiatives to improve our industry as a whole; meeting the Trust’s purpose and our social mission. For example, we played a key role in the birth and development of:

  • The Great Recovery: a programme that looked at the opportunities of a circular economy,
  • The Get It Right Initiative (GIRI): a programme to eliminate error and waste in the construction industry,
  • Constructionarium: a hands-on construction experience for built environment students and professionals where participants construct scaled-down versions of bridges, buildings, dams, and civil engineering projects from all around the world.


Procuring SE’s enables clients to do ‘more good’. This means that we can help organisations comply with their own social purpose, as well as comply with the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012. This Act places an obligation on public bodies to consider how the services they commission can improve the economic, social, and environmental wellbeing of their area.

We’re always interested in working with like-minded companies, so if you’d like to find out more about how we can work together, we’d love to hear from you.

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