As the dust from the Climate Conference in Paris (COP21) settles - nearly 200 countries and 40.000 negotiators attended the meeting – we wondered about what social enterprises are doing to mitigate or counter climate change. Below you will find 17 social enterprises from Germany, Sweden, Russia and the United Kingdom that each in their own particular way wish to make a contribution to the sustainable transformation of our societies.
While climate negotiations have been going on for more than two decades, climate change does not wait for binding decisions: the atmosphere and oceans keep becoming warmer, the amounts of snow and ice keep diminishing. Droughts, floods and rising sea levels keep destroying important infrastructures, diminishing agricultural productivity and forcing communities to dislocate.
Driven by economic and population growth, anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have been increasing since the pre-industrial era and today they are higher than ever. If we carry on like this, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reminds us, we risk severe and irreversible impacts on the natural environment and with this on our food supplies, jobs and homes. We know what the reasons for climate change are and we know that it is time to act.
But what about the role of companies? The Harvard Business Review recently published an article entitled " Corporations will never solve climate change" stating that "The reality is that voluntary corporate greening measures don't achieve scale, and therefore aren't climate solutions." Social enterprises may deserve a second look.
As our 17 examples show – and there are many more examples - social enterprises develop solutions on the ground: they create awareness, change attitudes, change patterns of behavior and consumption and develop innovative technologies and solutions. Through this, they contribute to paving the way towards political decisions and hopefully to a shift towards a more environmentally and socially sustainable communities and societies.
1. CO2 Online
CO2 online assists private households in decreasing their consumption of energy and with this lower their CO2 emissions. At the same time, consumers benefit from lower energy bills.
Jyoti designs products such as clothing and accessories out of recycled, ecologically, and equitably produced materials. The earnings enable the funding of literacy and education programs with emphasis on labor and women's rights, as well as the provision of health insurance. Together they develop individual projects that deal with finding future permanent and self-employment opportunities, where they can apply their newly acquired skills. At the same time, Jyoti addresses issues of overconsumption, and resource waste in Germany, creating awareness about how consumption impacts lives and the natural environment.
Polarstern provides exclusively green energy to customers in Germany and, together with them, enables households in Cambodia to build their own biogas digesters that generate biogas from implement livestock and human waste. Their story gives insights into how intersections between agribusiness, green energy, micro-financing and international collaborations work on the ground.
SOLARKIOSK has pioneered and scaled up a solar-powered technology design and an inclusive business model that are tailored for the specific needs of communities that aren't connected to the electricity grid. It includes local entrepreneurs as franchise partners who provide clean energy services and affordable solar products.
5. Yesil Cember
Yesil Cember works with immigrant communities in Germany who often remain disconnected from environmental protection efforts. Environmental groups have failed to integrate the Turkish community as well as other immigrant populations into their efforts. This results in key segments of German society not yet embracing environmental concerns as one key shared challenge facing the country. Yesil Cember, develops Turkish information material, provides training on environmental protection at Turkish community centers, and trains women as local multipliers promoting collaboration between German environmental organizations, Turkish migrant associations, state agencies, Turkish and German media corporations, and other relevant stakeholders.
6. Экологическая вахта Сахалина (Sakhalin Environment Watch)
The mission of Sakhalin Environment Watch is nature conservation, environmental protection and ecological protection of the rights of citizens. Their most recent action concentrated on the oil spill liquidation in Nevelsk in 2015.
7. Экологический центр Дронт (Environmental Center Dront)
The mission of the Environmental Center Dront is to study wildlife, environmental protection, environmental education, hence contributing to a better world. One of their most recent projects is called 'Defend your ecological rights', it's goal is the assistance to citizens in the protection and realization of their ecological rights. The project was created to ensure that anyone who wishes to protect their environmental rights can obtain the necessary information on the legal mechanisms and direct assistance in the preparation of documents.
8. Ростов – город будущего (Rostov - City of the Future)
Rostov - City of the Future guides people towards a more environmentally friendly lifestyle by helping them collect and separate waste properly. Every month the organization runs campaigns to promote waste collection and separation.
9. Beat Food for Progress
Beat Food for Progress created the Bean Paste Beat made from 100% organic beans. The new plant-based ingredient was created to power a high impact green protein switch. Beat helps you transition from lots of meat and a little beans to... lots of beans and a little meat. Without leaving a bean taste or look, it can be used as a supplement of meat replacement in popular dishes such as hamburgers, meatballs, meat sauce, soups, sauces and gratins or even in the dough pizza, bread and cookies. Beat Food For Progress wishes to stimulate health and play a role in guaranteeing food security for a growing world population.
Pollinating insects are crucial for human survival. Every third bite we eat is pollinated by a bee. Bee Urban offers interactive environment services in urban areas in the shape of beehives, gardens for biodiversity and habitat for pollinating insects and birds. Bee Urban targets companies, municipalities and other organizations that want to improve their environmental performance and their environmental profile in a concrete, interactive and innovative way. Bee Urban develops services to inform and disseminate knowledge about bees and biodiversity and how it is an integral part of sustainable urban development and human well-being.
Boodla builds ecological house gardens and school gardens as a way to create a sustainable future, both socially and environmentally. Our gardens are something between a vegetable garden and a playground. The aim is to help people to co-create their surroundings and get to know each other while they grow their own vegetables, hence creating ecological and social value.
12. Kindness food
Kindness Food wishes to promote a healthy, green lifestyle via their website and presentations. Kindness Food develops knowledge on organic food health. The company defines KindnessFood as fair food that is kind to your body, mind, the environment and all animals.
13. Live Green
Live Green Production has built a community of environmentally committed enthusiasts, produced five green music festivals and fashion shows, organized youth parliaments in the countryside and horror theater in the suburbs, educated young leaders and changemakers and created several businesses working on social impact.
Plantagon International is the global innovation leader in the sector urban agriculture. Plantagon's resilient food systems minimize the need for land, water, energy and pesticides. The environmental impact is very low, and if the products are delivered directly to consumers in the city, the transportation costs are also minimized. Plantagon develops innovative solutions to meet the rising demand for locally grown food in cities all around the world. We minimize the use of transportation, land, energy and water – using waste products in the process but leaving no waste behind.
15. Re:wake design
Re:wake design is a jewellery brand that transforms used paper into colorful, one of a kind jewellery. Women from underserved communities in Kenya individually craft each piece, so that they may create individual savings and realize their entrepreneurial aspirations. Re:wake design empowers women from impoverished areas so that they not only become economically independent, but contribute to their communities, too. This is achieved by helping them acquire skills, providing them with economic opportunity, and assisting them in establishing their businesses. "Wanawake" means "woman" in Swahili. The name Re:wake Design represents the reawakening of dreams within women.
16. Food Cycle
FoodCycle is a national charity that combines volunteers, surplus food and spare kitchen spaces to create tasty, nutritious meals for people at risk of food poverty and social isolation. Food Cycle runs over 24 projects across the UK, united by the simple idea that food waste and food poverty should not coexist.
17. Worn Again
Worn Again started in 2005 with creating footwear made from recycled materials and has continuously sought out bigger, better solutions to the challenges of textile waste. From recycling Worn Again evolved to upcycling corporate textiles, turning waste materials like end of use uniforms into fashion products. Currently Worn Again is in development of an innovative fibre to fibre recycling technology for clothing and apparel with the aim of returning recaptured raw materials back into the clothing supply chain as new.