The climate emergency and Scotland’s social enterprise movement

Posted: 19 November 2021, in Blog

Check out our green social enterprise resources page. #GreenSocEnt

Many social enterprises across Scotland are already doing great work to tackle the climate emergency at a local level. 

The range of activities is both ambitious and diverse. From nature education to recycling and upcycling, food and farming, sustainable clothing, outdoor retreats and many other interests.

However, particularly in the context of the recent COP26 event in Glasgow, the social enterprise community must do a lot more to make a real difference.

Social Enterprise Scotland has been highlighting the great work of green social enterprises and sharing support resources with the recent and ongoing #GreenSocEnt campaign. We also hosted a webinar with five green social enterprises “Social enterprise and the climate emergency”.

We’ve been working closely with partner organisations in a steering group that has been looking at the climate agenda and how we might support Scottish social enterprises now and in the future.

The sector produced a Net Zero Strategy last year too, building on the pledges in the national Social Enterprise Action Plan.

We also have organisations like Circular Communities Scotland, supporting charities, social enterprises and other third-sector organisations to make a real difference.

There are certainly lots of social enterprises delivering green priorities in every part of urban and rural Scotland. 

Darach Social Croft is located on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula in the Western Highlands. They operate as a “Social Croft”, using natural resources to provide social and psychological support to local people and promote wellbeing. Their work is especially for people with learning disabilities, autism or those experiencing poor mental health.

Hugh Asher from Darach Social Croft emphasises a key point about connecting with nature: 

“There is a growing body of evidence that people’s relationship with nature profoundly influences their behaviours toward the environment, in that the more connected to nature they feel, the more aware they are of environmental issues and the less likely they are to engage in activities that are environmentally damaging. 

“At a time when the world is confronted with growing environmental threats, better understanding the critical connection between people and nature is key to informing effective decision making.”

Trish Papworth of Stitch the Gap says that it’s important for enterprises to demonstrate real, grassroots action in tackling climate change: 

“We don’t use buzzwords or talk climate change or environmental impact. We get on with living it. We have created a social enterprise that lets you come in, have a shared experience sewing fabric and leave with a skill that embodies climate change without having to understand the definition of what that phrase means to you.”

Clean Water Wave CIC is a global social enterprise that blends advanced technology with robust engineering, to transform polluted ground and surface water into clean, safe water. Stephanie Terreni Brown says: 

“Social enterprises can play a galvanising role in finding, developing and scaling solutions to help us all on our path to a sustainable future. They are rooted in the community and doing purposeful business. I think it’s our duty to see a step-change in all of our work with regards to a net zero future. We need to grasp the nettle and pave the way. Practically, that means taking a look at every aspect of our business and seeing where and how we can improve our work to promote a greener way of doing things.”

It’s clear that all businesses, both private sector and social enterprise, have a role and certainly a responsibility, to take on the many opportunities of becoming a green enterprise.

Post-COP26 and post-lockdown we must hold on to the energy and ambition that’s been generated. Social enterprises and our allies in the public and private sectors must work together to build transformational change, with a green economy that benefits both people and planet.

Duncan Thorp, Social Enterprise Scotland