The Editor’s Post: Battle lines drawn for EU Green Deal

Impact entrepreneurs call for economic ‘paradigm shift’ in EU, South Africa’s mission to create decent jobs and how the School for Social Entrepreneurs helps social enterprises survive longer. This week’s view from the Pioneers Post newsroom.

Walking through the European quarter of Brussels yesterday – heading to an event hosted by the Business for a Better Tomorrow coalition – was a little more dramatic than usual. “Our end will be your hunger”; “we die and Europe dies with us”, read the banners of angry farmers. A couple of tractors even hoisted coffins down the road: “RIP agriculteurs”, read one sign. Smoke still billowed from Place Luxembourg, where a statue had been pulled down earlier

The farmers were protesting against falling profits, blamed in part on EU environmental rules. It was an apt reminder that item no. 1 of the new Business for a Better Tomorrow manifesto – ensuring the ambitious implementation of the Green Deal – really isn’t as obvious as it sounds. Many agree that the EU flagship policy, first unveiled in 2019, is now facing a crisis of legitimacy, with opposition not just from farmers (whose protests appear to be working), but also from right-wing parties and to some extent by big business. As the clock ticks down to EU elections in June – forecast by some to result in a “sharp right turn” – the 15 impact business networks behind this week’s manifesto are making the case for business that backs climate action and actively contributes to the common good. Read more in our story.


Not just about recycling

Green policies that factor in the needs of all people – known in the jargon as a ‘just transition’ – is also a preoccupation of Luyanda Hlatshwayo, who I met in Johannesburg last November. Governments must involve ‘reclaimers’ like him in any discussion of waste policy, he points out. After all, even a tiny change in the price of plastic would affect the livelihoods of those who make a living from collecting, sorting and selling plastic waste.

And this isn’t just talk. Luyanda is a spokesperson for the African Reclaimers Organisation, which is fighting for the recognition and rights of many thousands of informal workers. Through sheer determination and people power, this group has mobilised residents, engaged with academic researchers to collect data, and teamed up with major firms like Unilever. While the Reclaimers are currently focused on securing fair compensation for their thus-far unpaid labour, Luyanda has even bigger ambitions: modern warehouses, a chef school, paid work for former prisoners, even a university. As he says: it’s not just about recycling any more

Among the speakers in Brussels yesterday was Philippe Zaouati, the Mirova CEO and “sustainable finance activist” who you may remember from last year’s Pioneer Interview. Asked about financing the green transition in the US and China, he was quick to broaden the scope to the rest of the world. Africa, he suggested, is “probably where the battle will be won or lost”. Let’s hope that people like Luyanda can help lead us to a win.


This week's top stories

European impact entrepreneurs unite in call for EU policymakers to support economic ‘paradigm shift’

The business of boosting equality: South Africa’s mission to create decent jobs

Social enterprises supported by SSE more likely to survive first two years than other small businesses, research shows


Top photo: Farmers' protest in Brussels (credit - Anna Patton).