According to the UN we just have 10 years to save the planet and mitigate the worst impacts of the climate emergency. We all have a roll to play in changing how we behave but climate change is ultimately a systemic issue and is fundamentally tied to how we do business. This panel discussion brought together four social enterprises who are all, in their own way, taking on the issues created by a changing climate with the innovation so characteristic of the social enterprise community.

Taking part were:

Ellen Petts, CEO of Greenstream Flooring is a social enterprise turning waste materials into a community resource. They do this through the sale and reuse of flooring and also supply social housing providers.

Jim Blakemore, Co-founder and Chief Exec at Bikeworks, a social enterprise set up to get people cycling both in schools and in communities  

Karin Sode, Co-founder of People’s Energy a social enterprise energy company dedicated to fighting fuel poverty and provided green, sustainable energy

Kresse Wesling, Co-founder of Elvis and Kresse – the social enterprises manufacturing luxury bags and other products out of disused fire hose. Kresse also chaired this session.

Here are some of the main takeaways:

Social enterprises are natural innovators

This has been a regular theme throughout Social Enterprise Futures and Ellen stated that there’s been “increasing market demand for solutions that are towards net zero.” Greenstream Flooring’s model is based on converting otherwise wasted material into a community resource and Elvis and Kresse operate in a similar way also running on renewable energy and treating their own waste water.

How can social enterprises take responsibility for the climate emergency and build it into the way we work?

Kresse made the point that we all have to start somewhere as this is something we all need to do. We need to look at our business models and identify where we can make changes. This can start by simply switching your energy provider to a green energy one, such as People’s Energy.

Karin added that it is important to work in partnership and it was agreed that it could be worthwhile to set a goal for the social enterprise sector to show leadership in directly addressing the climate emergency – net zero for 2030!

There are still structural barriers that need to be overcome, one of which is that funding models are based on the status quo, which drive shareholder value first.

The climate emergency is an opportunity as much as a challenge

Jim mentioned that as awful as COVID has been it has also been an opportunity and the same logic can be applied to the climate emergency. Since the pandemic startedBikeworks undertook “a double pivot with purpose” shifting to becoming  an emergency response courier organisations in 3 days and having delivered 16,000 items between April and June including testing kits, medicines and food. We’re going to need to get more people cycling,  so there are opportunities in the climate crisis. Kresse added that the urgency posed by the changing climate helps them focus their business more and take on new challenges.