You'll know by now that we think that there's a lot of language misuse in the business world. The mission statement is the natural habitat of such adulterated language. Never have so many words come together to mean so little. The Dilbert Mission Statement Generator will provide you with plenty of examples of how not to write a mission statement.
So what is a mission statement for? Your mission is your fundamental reason for existence. In other words, why do you do what you do?
This is probably the reason why mission statements contain such nonesense. Many shareholder-driven businesses exist to make money for shareholders - but they create a mission which says something else (perhaps because they want to feel better about themselves) Anyone who works for the business knows the score - and as a result the mission statement becomes a joke.
As a social business, you shouldn't have this problem. In most cases, your mission statement won't state exactly what you do - instead it outlines what you aim to achieve, in doing what you do. So if you recycle furniture, your mission probably won't read "to recycle furniture". Instead, it will say something like "To reduce the amount of waste which goes to landfill and provide local people with work." In other words, running the furniture store is a means to an end.
In writing your mission statement, have a look back at your answer to the question "What market am I in?" You'll remember that to identify your market, you asked yourself "what does my customer need?". In a social business context, that question could be re-phrased as "what social need am I meeting?" The social need that you're meeting should be the same as your (social) mission.
It's worth spending a bit of time trying to get this right, but try not to fret too much if you don't come up with something short and snappy. But do your best to make sure that it makes sense to someone reading it for the first time.
Your mission is important - but what will make the real difference is if you, and everyone who works with you, knows your mission, believes in your mission and works tirelessly to achieve it . This is why social enterprises are sometimes referred to as mission-driven organisations - a whole team of people being driven by a clearly communicated mission is a powerful thing indeed.
Here are a few examples of mission statements we've come across which we found interesting - from social enterprises, charities and for-profit businesses: Oxfam, Ben and Jerry's, ASDA, CREATE Liverpool, the Fifteen Foundation, and, finally, Enron (to remind you that it's what you do that matters, not what you write on the page).