Frequently Asked Questions

Who are the target customers of the Star Social Firms and what can they buy?
The range of customers to be targeted will increase as more and more Social Firms obtain the Star Social Firm quality standard. At present customers for three of the Star Social Firms are business to business and business to government. Pembrokeshire FRAME also targets the general public although it does focus on low income households.

How do I find out about other Star Social Firms?
People will be kept up to date through the Star Social Firm website, through Social Firms UK Member Mailings and via the Social Firm trade directory: www.trade.socialfirms.co.uk which shows  the companies that have achieved Star Social Firm status.

How will getting the award help my business?
Having the award is something that firms will be able to use in their marketing. As a badge of quality Star Social Firms seeking to do business with procurement officers and others now have something extra to show they are reliable businesses and companies in which they can have confidence.

How frequently will the Star Social Firm status be re-assessed?
The award lasts for three years. Just like Investors in People Star Social Firms must undergo a re-evaluation to retain their Star Social Firm status.

To what extent is the award important to employees?
The Star Social Firm quality standard highlights the benefits enterprises can offer. It can help to brand products and services for the benefit of the business and ultimately employees
.

How long will it take for my Social Firm to become a Star Social Firm?
This really depends on you. All Social Firms that meet the Values Based Checklist and have two years of accounts are welcome to apply. Once you are committed to the process it will probably take about 6 months if you allow for 3 months preparation time. Some companies will take more time and others less.

How many more Star Social Firms do you think there will be within the next three years?
That depends to some extent on how fast we can grow the sector as a whole (the slow down in the economy does have an influence on this) and our ability to identify firms that already exist. We feel sure there are many Social Firms still to be discovered.. Once we do find them we will be happy to support them in becoming Star Social Firms.

We hope  to have doubled the number of Star Social Firms in next year and to make steady progress in building the number of Star Social Firms.


How much will it cost for organisations to apply for the Star Social Firm quality standard? What if they tick all the boxes but can't afford it?

We are seeking to keep the cost of attaining the quality standard modest and manageable for the typical small Social Firm and to this end we are looking for funding to support the accreditation process in its early years. We will do our best to keep the cost around £500 for small firms.  We will be delighted to hear from organisations interested in supporting us in this way. Over time, as business is levered in the value of the standard will become clear and firms that want to gain the Star will form the business case themselves. 

How was the setting up of the Star Social Firm quality standard funded?
Social Firms UK felt it was important to develop the quality standard without relying on external finance and has funded the full cost itself from charity reserves.

Having independence – not being beholden to others re content or timescale was something we felt strongly about.


Why do I have to sign a non disclosure agreement before I am allowed to see the criteria?
This is partly to do with the development costs and partly about retaining ownership. Many organisations (and countries) have expressed an interested in the Star Social Firm and want to emulate it. Having spent a great deal on money on something for the Social Firm sector we want to get something back for the sector and our members if we can. Others will pay for the expertise we have now developed.  Social Firms UK will also sign a non-disclosure agreement.

Will the Star Social Firm quality standard be expanded to other types of social enterprise?
As Phil Hope, the Minister for the Third Sector when the Star Social Firm quality standard was launched, said in his message of support, ‘the values that underpin the Star Social Firm are ones that ….the rest of the social enterprise can subscribe to’. We believe there is real value to be gained from extending the Star Social Firm quality standard to other types of social enterprise.  

Social Firms UK undertook a benchmarking project in which third sector recycling organisations were benchmarked against the Star Social Firm quality standard. Not only did the organisations involved find it very helpful we were able to demonstrate that the standard is relevant to the wider social enterprise sector.

What role does SFEDI have in maintaining the standards for the quality standard and any review processes you have?
The standards for the quality standard belong to Social Firms UK and SFEDI will only formally review those standards at the request of Social Firms UK.

There is a complaints process for any complaints people have about the assessment process or outcome.  Such complaints are directed in the first instance to Social Firms UK.

The role of SFEDI in maintaining the standards is through quality assuring the assessment, the internal verification; the approval panel systems and processes and appeals.

SFEDI internally verify all assessor activity to maintain the standard of assessor activity. Internal verification includes ensuring that all assessors keep up to date with their Continuous Professional Development and professional practice.

How long was the assessor training and what did it involve?
Assessor training was delivered through three one day workshops and a period of shadowing qualified SFEDI assessors. The training was phased throughout the period covered by the original pilot.

A great deal of time was taken throughout the assessor training to ensure that a consistent approach was taken. The internal verification process ensures that consistency of approach is maintained.

As a part of maintaining quality assessor practice is monitored and systems are in place to ensure skills and knowledge remains up to date.

I am interested in becoming a Star Social Firm assessor. How can I do that?

Training people to be assessors is costly. All our assessors are drawn from the Social Firm sector and when we were first seeking people to become assessors we contacted all Social Firms and emerging Social Firms we knew of at that time. The assessors we now have provide us with a good spread across the UK and we hope will be around for some time to come. So, at present, we are not planning to increase the number of assessors we have.

In what way does the Star Social Firm quality standard relate to the social enterprise mark? Should firms apply for one or the other or both?
The two are very different  The social enterprise mark is promoting social enterprise as a brand – a bit like Fair Trade  The Star Social Firm is a quality standard. They fit well together and Social Firms UK is very supportive of the social enterprise mark.   

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