As negotiations at COP 26 continue in Glasgow this week, the world is looking to its leaders for effective action on the climate emergency. Naturally, Scotland’s role as host provides a key opportunity to lead by example on sustainability and climate targets, and in one area in particular, the country is already making strides.
Although social enterprises are not always environmental organisations - and the sector, like all others, is looking to improve its environmental credentials overall - the alignment of values in supporting people and the planet is clear to see among more-than-profit enterprises.
As Climate Change has never been more front of mind, private, public and third sector organisations are increasingly seeking to make a positive impact in the race towards Net Zero. Could working with social enterprise suppliers and partners help you reach your Net Zero Targets?
Social Enterprise and the Circular Economy
Whether through job creation, employment training or the provision of goods at a more affordable cost, the reuse and repair economy has much to offer both to beneficiaries and companies struggling to deal with excess goods and materials.
Move On Wood Recycling, for example, reuses waste timber to make and upcycle furniture, whilst also offering training and work opportunities for people who have been marginalised from the workforce. In this way, reducing waste, transport emissions and deforestation provides immediate benefits for vulnerable people and the community at large. The Edinburgh Remakery uses a similar synthesis. It refurbishes and recycles what others send to landfill, while supporting people on low incomes and those facing digital exclusion. They help companies dispose of their unused or broken IT while making digital devices affordable to individuals who need them in the community including those on low incomes or older residents. Similarly, Fareshare Scotland is redistributing surplus food to fight hunger and food waste at the same time. Through targeted deliveries, Fareshare also strengthens a network of existing initiatives such as children’s breakfast clubs and homeless shelters.
This kind of circular economy allows communities to build and retain wealth and skills whilst facing key environmental challenges head on. And the impact of these initiatives can be scaled up, in that these social enterprises help companies to improve their ESG standards when they donate materials or bring them into their supply chains.
The examples above show a growing insight, represented in frameworks like the ‘Just Transition’, that social justice is inextricable from climate justice. And social enterprises operating in this space are not just confined to the urban environment, Circular Communities Scotland has a membership of organisations in cities, towns, rural locations and island communities all throughout Scotland.
Social Enterprise and Green Innovation
Scotland is also home to social enterprises whose focus is to innovate on specific environmental issues such as biodiversity and clean energy, before transferring the rewards to communities.
The Point and Sandwick Trust, for instance, operates the UK’s biggest community windfarm, with profits generated by the turbines being invested into community projects across the Western Isles. The community initiatives they fund range from a local hospice to conservation work and an arts centre. Similarly, Linlithgow Community Development Trust runs ‘Linlith-Go-Solar’, which aims to expand the use of solar energy throughout Lithgow. It has installed solar panels across the town and is now helping to generate cheaper, greener supplies of electricity which are owned and run by and for the community. Finally, Sustainable Thinking Scotland, based in Falkirk is developing a biochar water remediation technology pilot that would capture the carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere.
These type of initiatives show that there is a wealth of innovation and green best practices that can be found in social enterprise, and forward-thinking organisations can be enabled to scale with appropriate social investment funding as well as through local private and public partnerships. This can help ensure that local innovation and infrastructure is made to serve people and the planet before profit.
Community Wealth Building
Finally, another interesting type of social enterprises to consider are the ones operating around a community wealth building model. The initiatives transfer control and ownership to the community, and ensure that social and ecological aspirations can be directed by those directly affected.
The Langholm Initiative, for example, is leading conservation efforts after having facilitated one of South Scotland’s largest community land buyouts. The local community now owns 5,200 acres of land which is being developed into a nature reserve to protect wildlife and maximise biodiversity. They are now looking to double the size of the holding, and are working to regenerate Langholm through ecotourism.
A crucial feature of community wealth building initiatives is their empowerment of communities and their close attention to local community issues. As well as operating dynamically as businesses and service providers, they also differ from many climate charities and campaign groups in that it is local people who are leading the efforts, often for the benefit of their community.
Whereas the climate movement has sometimes been attacked in the past for being divorced from the interests and lives of ordinary people, these social enterprises are showing that climate action is something that can include, enfranchise and benefit all people, at the local level and beyond. In turn, the scalability of many of these plans means that communities' aspirations can expand accordingly as they collaborate with corporations and governments.
Partnering with social enterprises
We hope this post inspired you to learn more about the wide of circular, innovative and community wealth building social enterprises in Scotland that are leading the charge in the fight agains climate change and that you can partner with to achieve your ambitions and net zero targets.
Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done across all sectors to improve the way we measure and report on our environmental impact and to develop more sustainable business practices, whatever the size of our organisation is, to play our part.
As we look to increase the connections between social enterprises and the private, public and third sector, remember that partnering with social enterprises can be a valuable strategy to consider. Take a look at our B2B directory to find services and products from social enterprises across Scotland, including those whose key issue is 'Environment and Recycling' in the filter options.
You can also get in touch with us at email@example.com to tell us about your ambitions and business needs and we'll be happy to recommend organisations who can help.