Net Zero Wales – what does it mean for social enterprise?

The Welsh Government recently published Net Zero Wales, its second emissions reduction plan. It sets out how Wales plans to meet the second carbon budget, which put a cap on emissions over a five-year period. The carbon budget for 2021-25 sets out a 37% reduction in emissions, and this blog considers what the plan could mean for social enterprise in Wales.

See this page in: Cymraeg

The Net Zero Wales plan asks the public to shop and consume goods and services closer to home, support local town centres and to use their buying power to support businesses which are leaders in tackling climate change. This is an opportunity for social enterprise. Social enterprises are anchored in their communities; investment in them stays in the community and is recycled for wider economic and social benefits.

They operate and thrive in areas where other businesses cannot or do not want to. Social enterprises can also be leaders in tackling climate change. They operate on the principles of the Triple Bottom line; people, planet, profit. This ensures that their social, environmental, economic purpose is at the heart of what they do. Many have environmental objectives and improving the local area at the heart of their social aims. It is also worth noting that many social enterprises have embedded circular economy principles within these environmental objectives.

The plan sets out how we need to increase generation from renewables in ways which are the most cost effective and beneficial for Wales. Community renewable energy schemes, including co-operatives, can deliver this. They give communities access to, and an increased understanding of, renewable energy sources. It also gives communities control over the income stream. Several community renewable energy schemes reinvest profits into improving energy efficiency in local homes and awareness raising schemes. The latest State of the Sector Report from Community Energy Wales makes practical recommendations about how this sector could meet its potential.

For social enterprises that work in recycling and the circular economy, the plan could present an opportunity. It sets out that zero waste will be sent to landfill and Wales will reach zero waste (100% recycling) by 2050. This means that after 2025, there will be no need for new landfill sites for waste generated in Wales. As organisations that deliver environmental benefit alongside social and economic benefit, social enterprises should be strongly positioned to deliver this goal.

All social enterprises will need to consider how they can reduce their own environmental impact.

The plan is clear that we need to consider the amount of heating, cooling and hot water used in both industrial and commercial buildings and the materials used to construct them. This includes industrial premises and well as shops, hotels and offices. Social Business Wales offers advice and guidance on these issues. As the implementation of the Plan progresses, we will post updates on news and opportunities for the sector on this blog site and our newsletter.

Dr Ceri-Anne Fidler is Social Enterprise Sector Policy Officer and supports the Social Enterprise Stakeholder Group.

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