The next generation of social enterprises #TransformingWales – our Top 10
In the third blog in our series for #COP26, Melusi Moyo looks at how a new generation of social enterprises across Wales are tackling the climate change crisis by working to create sustainable solutions in everything from active travel and community energy to sustainable fashion.
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1. Gower Regeneration
This 1 Megawatt solar farm – that is enough electricity for about 300 houses – is the first community-owned solar farm in Wales. All profits generated from the project are reinvested into the local area supporting land-based livelihoods and providing skills and education to make the rural community more environmentally conscious. Gower Regeneration also encourages more community agriculture schemes and develops local partnerships with schools.
Since 2010, renewable electricity generation in Wales has trebled, but more local ownership of new generation could help to deliver a more equal society. Decarbonisation offers enormous opportunities to create a vibrant and socially just economy. In 2017, Welsh Government set a target for 1 gigawatt (GW) of renewable energy capacity in Wales to be locally owned by 2030. Community energy projects such as Gower Regeneration are a big step towards Wales’ net-zero aspirations.
2. Prom Ally CIC
A social enterprise from Llandudno, Ally Eloise started Prom Ally to support young boys and girls who couldn’t afford the experience of going to Prom. It offers free loans of prom dresses and suits to school children, sixth form students and college students who otherwise couldn’t afford one.
Today Prom Ally is leading the ‘hire, don’t buy’ revolution for formal wear and tackling poverty-based exclusion at the same time. The social enterprise has helped hundreds of girls since it began and has recently opened up to boys too, offering suits in addition to the dresses. The social enterprise won the Social Business Wales Awards ‘One to Watch’ category in 2021 for its promising work.
The sustainable fashion industry is a growing sector providing environmentally sustainable wardrobes and enabling people from varied backgrounds to access and hire clothing in cheap and eco-friendly ways. The circular economy is key to achieving net-zero which the Welsh Government have committed to reaching by 2050 (with ambitions to get there sooner). By encouraging a Team Wales’ effort – enterprises like Prom Ally have a key role to play.
3. The Bike Lock
Bike theft is a genuine concern for active travellers, and the difficulty of finding safe spaces to lock bikes in town and city centres is a real problem. A new social enterprise based in the Cardiff will soon offer the city’s first safe and secure indoor bike storage space, as well as showers, changing area, storage, remote workspace and locally and ethically sourced food and drink produce.
The Bike Lock hopes to encourage active travel in the city, which can contribute to all the goals of the Well-being of Future Generations Act, as highlighted in the Welsh Government’s Active Travel Guidance report. For example, boosting active travel reduces car usage and therefore congestion improving the resilience of Wales by reducing carbon emissions and other harmful pollutants. Active travel also grows the prosperity and the health of the workforce across Wales.
The Bike Lock team has signed a lease and should be opening the facilities very soon
4. reSource Denbighshire CIC –
Commercial waste is a growing problem. reSource is a commercial waste diversion enterprise repurposing and encouraging zero waste, whilst working with people with disabilities. The group has recently received funding for a green project, acquiring a disused building two miles from Denbighshire town centre.
They are currently preparing the reUse store to provide an array of reusable goods like fabric, paper, card, cardboard and foam for creative activities. reSource aims to support the local circular economy, where items are used until their complete end of life. This keeps items out of the landfill and in use for longer, supporting local families, educational institutions, and community groups. In 2020 the Welsh Government (WG) published its Beyond Recycling report on the circular economy, committing to a move towards zero waste by 2050 and reaffirming a cultural shift towards more circular economy implementation across all Welsh regions and sectors of the economy.
5. One Global Ocean Ltd
Fifth on our list is Gwynedd based One Global Ocean Ltd, which works with schools and youth groups to clean up local coastlines and raise awareness about the importance of healthy oceans for sustaining life.
Lesley Griffiths MS, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs said; “Marine litter continues to be one of the major threats to our seas and our marine environment,” emphasising the importance of such community initiatives tackling environmental issues in Wales. The Welsh Government supported the development of the Marine Litter Action Plan (MLAP) 2020-23. The plan aligns with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act goal to create a more resilient Wales. One Global Ocean Ltd highlights yet another area where social enterprises can make a positive impact on climate change.
6. Incredible Edible Carmarthenshire
Originally set up 10 years ago in West Yorkshire, the Incredible Edible movement focusses on growing, sharing, and giving access to locally produced food. Incredible Edible Carmarthenshire works with communities to convert unloved spaces into productive growing spaces, growing fruit trees and bushes, herbs, edible flowers, pollinators and vegetables. The produce grown is free for everyone to share. It also runs a wide range of events that help share kindness and strengthen the local community by building community spirit. These have included some bread-making, bunting-making and macrame workshops.
Earlier this year the Welsh Government emphasised the need to address food security issues in a more sustainable way, with food poverty becoming a growing issue for families and individuals. The Incredible Edible movement has sought to showcase how easy it is to grow edibles and better provide food for local communities.
7. Natural Eco Vision
Next on the list is Natural Eco Vision, founded by Tracey Alexander, a town trust set up to benefit the community and natural environment of Penarth. The trust works across a range of projects supporting education, arts, environment, and health. It is currently planning to create buildings around natural habitats which include eco-friendly features like wooden frame windows ensuring new builds are more considerate to conservation areas.
Producing environmentally friendly housing is a central aspect to the Well-being of Future Generations act – creating a ‘resilient Wales’ which maintains and enhances the biodiversity of the natural environment. Natural Eco Vision seeks to ensure and protect healthy functioning ecosystems by engaging with the community in every step to appropriately manage land and create environmentally friendly housing for nature conservation.
8. Yellow The Social Enterprise
Like a few others on this list, Yellow TSE promotes sustainable and responsible retail. The enterprise places a huge emphasis on reducing its environmental impact by introducing ethical options for consumers to shop in more sustainable ways. Yellow TSE has identified a position in Cardiff city centre and is planning to open a store there in February 2022. The store will include pop-up spaces for new social enterprises and concessions for more established social enterprises. The aim is to raise the profile of local social enterprises and make ethical and eco-friendly products more easily available to shoppers, so they can shift to a zero-waste lifestyle.
9. Ynni Teg
Ynni Teg is a social enterprise registered as a community benefit society. The Welsh community energy project is based near Carmarthen with a 900kw wind turbine commissioned in 2017. The turbine stands at 40 metres with a 54-metre wing-span and is expected to generate enough energy to power about 650 homes. Ynni Teg strives to develop a clean energy future for Wales, which mitigates the effects of climate change by using renewable energy generation that directly benefits local communities.
Ynni Teg hopes to help community energy flourish and make a significant contribution to a low carbon, community-led energy future for Wales. Community energy groups have reached nearly 100,000 people in the last year, placing them firmly at the forefront of climate change. Directly engaging with communities in Wales’ transition to net zero, and ensuring the shift is also fair to the people of Wales, is a central element. The group continues to re-invest any profits into the local community around the turbine and is continually looking for opportunities to explore more projects.
10. Y Tŷ Gwyrdd
Y Tŷ Gwyrdd is a grassroots community hub located in Denbigh, North Wales. It is an inclusive, inspiring space with a shop offering locally sourced, fair trade and zero-waste products. Proposed facilities include a café, enclosed indoor play space, and room hire, regular repair workshop, and book, clothing and toy exchange. The primary focus is to celebrate and promote the inspiring people, businesses and projects in Denbigh and the surrounding area, and to help reduce the community’s impact on the environment by offering affordable and accessible zero-waste options and opportunities to facilitate a circular economy.
It’s clear that social enterprises are forging a pathway for Wales to become more environmentally friendly, sustainable, and resilient, by protecting our oceans, limiting our carbon footprint, and developing green energy – all through a fair, community-led outlook. As the sector continues to grow, social enterprises have a key role to play in providing innovative solutions for Wales’ future.