The Editors' Post: Let’s move on from pitching ‘people' v ‘planet'
Social and environmental benefits are entirely interconnected; it's time for the impact community to properly put this into practice. Plus, we explore the recent challenges facing purposeful property enterprise Dot Dot Dot, and more of this week's top stories.
This week, Europe was a furnace. And it’s shocking that this is what it takes for people to wake up to the climate crisis. For too many in high-income countries, the floods, storms, heatwaves and desertification that have been going on for years around the world didn’t seem to count as evidence – probably because they often happen in the global south.
But if that’s an opportunity to push people to act, let’s take it. The impact sector tends to be more advanced than others on the issue, but misconceptions remain that hinder progress: too often, I see “environment” pitched against “social” as if it was an either/or choice, whereas we know both are entirely interconnected. The concept of “just transition” (a transition to a net-zero economy that benefits people as well as the planet) is making ground, and this week, a coalition of 18 financial institutions announced they are now starting work to develop a dedicated label for financial products. Let’s hope the impact community builds on this momentum so “just transition” doesn’t become a mere buzzword.
Then, let’s learn from those who are doing it: while the social enterprise sector is just starting to figure out its role on climate change, many social businesses are already finding solutions. Read our selection of seven inspiring examples – from mangrove conservation in Madagascar and planting trees in the Sahel, to making beer from surplus bread in London.
How is your social enterprise or impact fund taking action against climate change? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Crisis and constraints
For a social enterprise, operating in a sector in deep crisis is a good way to have a strong impact. But it’s also a risk: facing a crisis much bigger than itself, the social enterprise works within constraints beyond its control; and that means some stakeholders might feel it’s not doing enough to help them. That’s what happened to Dot Dot Dot.
The social enterprise provides guardianship services in the UK for landlords whose buildings would otherwise stand empty; guardians benefit from cheaper housing, and in return commit to volunteering for good causes. But it recently came under fire over fee increases for some of the guardians, who didn’t understand the justification for them – although Dot Dot Dot has explained the rises were overdue and necessary to keep the social enterprise sustainable (it does not rely on any grants).
Dot Dot Dot says it’s doing “the best it can” to help: it can’t solve the housing crisis on its own, so has to operate within a broken sector. It could be argued that the property guardianship model itself is inherently flawed and unfair. But for many people, it is the only option to access affordable housing. Dot Dot Dot is undertaking the difficult task of delivering a positive impact despite the housing sector’s rotten foundations – it is ambitious, but is likely to create tensions.
This week's top stories – 22 July:
Header image courtesy Blue Ventures, a social enterprise that protects tropical fisheries
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