Tackling the Climate Crisis through Social Enterprise
The climate crisis, although we are experiencing its impact currently, will develop and continue to impact future generations. As the quote above suggests, young people are the ones who will face the biggest consequences from the damage being done to our planet. It is therefore so inspiring to see the young people of today taking ownership of climate and environmental issues to mitigate future consequences.
One method of taking ownership is through engagement with social enterprise. Social enterprise allows individuals to firstly recognise opportunities to influence matters they care about, and secondly engage with practical actions which are necessary to achieve such change.
By definition, social enterprises are businesses that trade for the common good rather than the unlimited private gain of a few. They typically focus on growing community strength, meeting social needs and protecting the environment and the world’s natural resources.
Currently, there are more than 20 Social Enterprise Networks operating across Scotland which facilitate almost 700 social enterprises. These community owned enterprises are a clear example of local democracy, and empower both young and older individuals to influence societal issues. Social enterprise is also extremely infectious, and more young people participating in social enterprise at school level will lead to accelerated change led by even more expansive networks.
Within an environmental context, social enterprise can exist in a variety of different ways. Young people can establish projects to prevent the overproduction of goods, which embody linear lifecycles: from manufacturing, to use, to disposal. For example, single use plastic bottles are manufactured using finite natural resources, used once, and then disposed of either through recycling streams or landfills. As an alternative, social enterprises can promote the circular economy through the redesign of product lifecycles which enable the reuse of products and materials, sending less resources to landfill.
The circular economy can also be applied to social enterprises tackling other environmental issues, such as food waste:
As shown in the image, uneaten food can serve a purpose by being deposited into compost and agricultural soil to grow new food produce. This produce then feeds the community and moves along this closed loop lifecycle, with the waste again providing value as compost.
There are many opportunities in Scotland to facilitate this model within community gardens and allotments, supported by the fact that there are currently 11,000 hectares of vacant and derelict land nationwide, with just under a third of the population living within 500 metres of a site (The Scotsman, 2021).
These are just a couple of ways that the climate crisis can be tackled through social enterprise, with many more solutions still to be realised. With the collective strength of young people’s fresh insight, knowledge and innovation, the possibilities are endless.
To assist young learners in their quest for future environmental solutions are the projects and events surrounding last year’s COP26, that took place in Glasgow between the 1st and 12th November. The purpose of these events are to inspire the youth of today to connect the dots between social enterprise and the ongoing climate action.
Pupils from Kirkhill Primary, winners of the Climate Change Dragons’ Den in 2021
One such event was the Climate Change Dragons’ Den. This event was created by Social Enterprise Academy in collaboration with After the Pandemic and WOSDEC, providing the platform for young people to pitch their climate positive ideas to a panel of ‘Dragons’ in the hopes of earning a cash investment. The event was an opportunity for young people to collaborate with peers, experiment with social enterprise, learn more about environmental issues, and showcase their ideas within Glasgow’s city centre while it was still illuminated by COP26 excitement. An online event also ran concurrently where young people could get involved in the climate conversation from the comfort of their home.
These events contribute to the wider effort to ensure social enterprise learning is attainable to the next generation of social entrepreneurs. This is the goal of Social Enterprise Opportunities for Young People, established by the Scottish Government and supported by the Social Enterprise Academy. This initiative recognises the potential of young people to influence societal matters such as climate change, and also empowers them to peer collaborate on practical, real life issues and truly take ownership of their future.
You can get involved and keep up to date with events happening in your area by clicking here. Remember, the world is always just one idea away from becoming a better place – And who better to come up with new ideas and fresh perspectives than young people?