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Social Enterprise Solutions for the Climate Emergency

The climate emergency is undoubtedly one of the greatest (if not the greatest) challenges we currently face right across the world. It is widely acknowledged that we must act rapidly to mitigate the impacts of climate change, and in the UK we now have a Government target set to achieve carbon net zero by 2050. While most social enterprises are focused on social issues, many have an environmental incentive at their heart, existing to provide sustainable solutions to waste, to connect people with nature, and to protect our natural world. Growing numbers are recognising and addressing the need to pursue both social and environmental objectives. We’ve highlighted five of our social suppliers doing just that:

We’re all well aware of the importance of recycling. Carried out on a large scale it can significantly reduce waste, save energy, and prevent the further extraction of raw materials to cut carbon emissions. Recycling Lives is a Preston-based social enterprise operating across the country, providing a comprehensive waste management and recycling service. As industry leaders in recycling, their services cover everything from plastics, metal, cardboard, textiles and automotive parts and they also offer training in recycling and a range of other areas. On top of their environmental credentials Recycling Lives supports people marginalised from the workforce―such as ex-offenders and those who have experienced homelessness―to get back on their feet and into stable employment. They do this by providing training, education and work experience, ultimately helping people to find full time work, either within the social enterprise itself or with one of its corporate partners. Through their work with Recycling Lives, individuals receive mentoring to ensure that any problems are dealt with so that once they are on track, they stay on track.

Following their own mantra of 3 Rs, InUse-Reuse aims to Reuse, Recycle and Repurpose all types of waste destined for landfill. The South London social enterprise helps commercial and domestic clients increase their sustainability efforts, managing the collection of pallets, wood waste and unwanted furniture.

InUse-ReUse are demonstrating how the circular economy can work on a local scale, giving materials a new life and repurposing them for household, office and public use. For instance, wood pallets they collected from Brixton market were transformed into bespoke benches which are now used in local parks and gardens. They have also helped to create a local community gardening hub, in collaboration with Urban Growth, another local environmental Supply Change social enterprise.

It is true that many people living in urban areas feel increasingly disconnected with nature. Urban Growth is a social enterprise that is reconnecting Londoner’s with the natural world, helping to both improve people’s well-being while creating and maintaining biodiverse spaces which have a positive impact on the environment. Through designing, installing and maintaining community gardens and food growing spaces and engaging local people in these projects, Urban Growth aims to enrich urban biodiversity while educating and inspiring.

Similar to the InUse-ReUse, Oxford Wood Recycling (OWR) is a social enterprise providing an environmentally friendly alternative to a skip. They operate in Oxfordshire, West Buckinghamshire and most of Berkshire. OWR specialise in recovering reusable materials from the waste collected, which provide local DIYers and woodworking enthusiasts with a sustainable source of low cost timber. For waste wood producers, they offer a comprehensive waste audit detailing the destination of all of your waste, which you may be required to have to comply with recent legislation governing the disposal of waste. For wood users, OWR has an ever changing array of both ordinary and unusual materials. From raised beds to garden sheds, floorboards to firewood, bookshelves to storage boxes or workshops to wine racks.

Paint may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of items to recycle, but a whole lot goes unused and is wasted every year. Recycling it helps to protect marine life and waterways, while reducing landfill. Paint360 takes on this challenge, giving old paint a new life.

The team collects waste paint from waste management companies, councils and contractors and recycles it (including the metal and plastic paint pots), delivering a true closed loop service. Each litre of Paint360’s paint contains a minimum of 65% recycled content and it competes on quality and price with premium brands. At the same time, Paint360 creates job opportunities for young people facing barriers to employment, who make up the core of their workforce.

While social enterprises cannot provide all the answers to the huge challenges we face around climate change, they do offer a blueprint for more sustainable ways of doing business as well as innovative solutions for building a cleaner, greener future.


Interested in working with social enterprises that are having a positive impact on the environment? Get in touch to find out how we can help at


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