Here at the Belu office we’re on countdown to September when the Social Enterprise World Forum ‘comes home’ to Edinburgh where it all began in 2008. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend Hong Kong in 2016, or Christchurch in 2017, so I can’t wait to meet up to share progress and discuss challenges with those I met in Milan 2015, and meet some new faces.


Since my last World Forum attendance, a lot has changed here in the UK:

  • In September 2015, the term ‘Brexit’ wasn’t conceived, never mind fast approaching.
  • The launch of Social Enterprise UK’s brilliant ’Buy Social’ Corporate Challenge – where a group of high profile businesses are aiming to spend £1 billion with social enterprises in their supply chains – was still six months away.
  • And, Belu at that time was still very much an ethical bottled water company. Since then we’ve expanded our proposition to serve our market with an end-to-end water service solution including bottled mineral water, filtration systems, refillable bottles and carafes.


Boosting brand credibility


After initial shock and frustration on the first of those points, Belu has chosen to focus our energy on the opportunity for social enterprise despite, and because of, our political backdrop.


With public trust in government, media, businesses, and NGO’s decreasing, we’ve found there has never been a better time for using impact data to support building brand and business credibility.


In the UK Hospitality sector, of which we serve, changing times have brought uncertainty, new challenges and an appetite for further change. Specifically, we’re seeing buyers articulate the need to look beyond advertising hooks, or historic purchasing patterns for evidence rather than unsubstantiated claims and for credible added value beyond price.


Our opportunities with impact data


I believe good use of impact measurement presents great opportunity for social enterprises to build trading success. Through measuring and reporting our impact correctly and robustly, we have to be advantaged from a credibility and trust perspective. Why? Because our brand stories and business cases are centred on values and driving positive change. They’re real and embedded in everything we do – or they should be!


So, if you haven’t already, it’s time to take your data, evidence and stories and raise your game to the next level in how you brand and communicate your offering.


Not maximizing impact data could risk losing your space back to the mainstream


The world we trade in is already seeing mainstream business and brands increasingly talk about meaning and purpose. We are seeing increasing activity in tactical promotions at point of purchase trying to pull at the heart strings of consumers, and in some cases we are also seeing blatant ‘me too’ or copycat marketing.


As we approach the world forum I encourage you to ask your business these questions:

  • If we really scrutinize data, is our current measurement robust? Are we measuring the right things, or could we do it differently or better?
  •  Are we using data to maximum advantage to tell our story clearly and impactfully enough to the right people?


Make collaboration the new competition


If you need help on either of those two things, I’m sure Edinburgh will bring you the ideas and contacts you need to raise your game. Better still, while you’re there why not consider who you might collaborate with too? With the rules of competition changing faster than ever before, let’s take our impact data, work better together as a sector, and make collaboration the new competition.


This article was originally published at SEWF online


About Belu

Belu offers the most ethical choice in water service from bottled mineral water to filtration and reusable bottles and carafes. Belu’s income is all from trading and to date the business has passed over £3 million to WaterAid, transforming over 200,000 lives with access to safe water and sanitation.


About the Social Enterprise World Forum

The Social Enterprise World Forum 2018 is an international event for social enterprises from all over the world to come together, share wisdom, build networks and explore how to create a more sustainable future.


Karen Lynch has been the CEO of the social enterprise Belu Water since 2011, having previously pursued a corporate career in media and finance. Under Karen’s leadership, Belu launched a new business model focused on exemplifying environmental standards in the industry and pledging to donate all profits to WaterAid.


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