Social enterprise – putting people and planet before profit

The UN calls Climate Change the crisis of our time. Wales declared a climate emergency in 2019. There is a real opportunity at this time of profound health, social, economic and political turmoil, to develop new and radical solutions and profound changes that rebuilds our economy and society in a way that works for people and planet.

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Social enterprises value the environment just as much as people and profit and can lead the way in tackling climate change. Our sector can show what can be achieved when we put people and planet ahead of profit. The Social Enterprise Stakeholder Groups believes that social enterprise should be promoted as the business model of choice for organisations working and wanting to work in this area. There should be a bold and ambitious role for social enterprise in delivering a green economy and just green transition. We believe that Welsh Government could go further in harnessing the potential of the sector to deliver against this agenda.

Many social enterprises operate in sectors such as renewable energy, zero waste, food, biodiversity and land management. Some have environmental objectives and improving the local area at the heart of their social aims. Many social enterprises have embedded circular economy principles within these environmental objectives. They are ideally placed to play a key role in helping with training and skills development in local communities as part of a just green transition.

There is also an opportunity to build more resilient communities and local economies, through scaling up social enterprises and community and locally owned businesses and assets, and creating sustainable quality jobs to be at the heart of the green recovery.

Confronting climate change requires a radical shift in how we think about our economy and businesses. Our current economic models prioritise growth and GDP growth at any cost. This has damaging consequences for climate, biodiversity, and wellbeing.

Social enterprises in Wales are ready to challenge the economic models of the past and rebuild a fairer, more inclusive and sustainable economy. Social enterprises are at the forefront of delivering a just and green transition and have pioneered solutions to tacking the climate emergency. They deliver people-centred local economic development that responds to community need and where participation and empowerment are integral. But to fully deliver these things, social enterprises in Wales need specialist business support to rebuild and grow.

Social enterprises require specialist business advice services to meet their unique needs. While they face many of the same challenges as any mainstream business, they also face unique challenges. Social enterprises have different drivers and deliver holistic solutions, integrating their environmental and social objectives with economic ones. They have specific governance structures and are accountable to multiple stakeholders. They access funding in different ways and from different places, for example from trusts and foundations, social

investment providers and community share schemes. These businesses need to be supported in ways which are sympathetic to their means of delivery and social impact.

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

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