for social entrepreneurship

The environment: definitely in my backyard!

Market trends

The environment: definitely in my backyard!

Climate change, declining biodiversity, shortages of drinking water, increasing famine … We humans have treated our planet irresponsibly, and are now facing the consequences. New models rely on principles such as recycling, sustainability and local product chains.


Climate change
The fight against climate change tends to be seen these days as an opportunity rather than an expense – as a spur to move towards a low-carbon society and economy, with the additional potential for a more solidarity-based way of shaping energy supply in tomorrow’s world. 
Businesses, governments and individuals are all taking responsibility for this, with initiatives in areas such as energy saving, energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy. 
The government is playing its part with a legislative framework and emissions targets, subsidies and public information campaigns. 
Numerous companies, large and small, are developing and implementing innovative products and services to turn this low-carbon future into a reality, such as wind turbines, photovoltaic cells, energy storage solutions and electric vehicles. Globally, investments in new energy generation capacity already exceed those in fossil-fuel-based or nuclear capacity. In 2011, worldwide investments in renewable energy reached a new record level, increasing 17 percent to 257 billion dollars. That is six times as much as in 2004 and 93 percent more than in 2007, the year before the financial crisis.
This fast-growing sector is already creating millions of sustainable and decentralised local jobs, partly helped by companies with online tools for measuring, reducing and/or offsetting your CO2, such as CO2logic or compenCO2.

Biodiversity and local food supply
Over the past fifty years, biodiversity has changed faster than ever (see The cause lies in human activities, which have led to the spread of toxic substances, the acidification of the oceans, and changes in the water balance, due to such phenomena as the increasing use of hard surfacing, deforestation and the emission of harmful substances in the atmosphere or in watercourses.
Around the world, numerous organisations on different scales are involved in restoring or reinforcing biodiversity and bringing about a transition to sustainable, productive and eco-friendly agriculture and land use in general.
Beeodiversity is working to strengthen and increase biodiversity in Belgium by introducing and managing healthy bee colonies in a biodiverse environment.
The non-profit Voedselteams  focuses on short-chain agriculture, with as few kilometres as possible ‘from farm to plate’, and organic produce in many cases.
CSA is a network of individual farmers who are using a financially innovative model to involve local people in the advance financing and the actual harvesting of crops, ‘fresh from the field’. 

Sustainable materials management
Our current ways of producing and consuming mean that costly and often finite materials are being consumed – as opposed to just used – at a rapid pace. As well as being finite, raw materials often have to be extracted in other parts of the world, as the EU has few of these natural resources in its territory. This import-dependence needs to be broken by evolving as a society – with the economy as the main driver – from linear to circular flows of materials. High-quality, maximised recycling can protect open economies against fluctuations in raw materials prices, and offers a way for societies to solve the waste problem – naturally with a radical reduction in the impact on our environment and the ecosystem in general.   
New business models focus on selling functionality and on use rather than on ownership and short-lived consumption. We are already seeing numerous industrial companies responding to this trend with an innovative array of products, services and processes. The final bill is determined not by the volume of end product, but by the quality of the end result. 
Some examples of organisations active in the area of sustainable use of materials:
- Nearly New Offices: the reuse and upcycling of office furniture
- Rotor: a collective of people interested in material flows in industry and the construction sector 
- National Industrial Symbiosis Programme: a network which aims to encourage a circular economy
- Plan C: a transitional network for sustainable material management
- Ecodesign: a forum for sustainable product innovation