New report sets out roadmap to help assess and amplify the positive climate impacts of community businesses

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A new report from Power to Change, in partnership with IPPR North and Locality, outlines the enormous and largely untapped potential of community businesses to create positive climate action  
12 Sep, 2023

As the UK’s Net Zero plans come under increasing scrutiny and record heatwaves this summer highlight the reality of living with the effects of climate change, a new report from Power to Change released today outlines the enormous and largely untapped potential of community businesses to create positive climate action. 

The report, drawing on research and an evidence review by IPPR North and Locality, highlights the fact that 72% of community businesses are already driving climate action in one form or another. This could be through direct action such as community owned clean energy enterprises, or indirect impacts such as reducing carbon emissions from farming as part of a community farming initiative. 

It also identifies the crucial role community businesses can play in building resilience in areas facing greatest disadvantage and promoting a fair and fast transition to a net zero society. At the heart of the report is the acknowledgement that, without a clear and consistent way for community owned businesses to measure and report on their positive climate actions, they are unlikely to attract the level of support and financing needed to thrive in the future. 

To address this, a framework for measuring climate impact has been developed specifically for community businesses, utilising existing evidence, stakeholder engagement and action research. This is designed to encourage and help community business to measure and maximise their climate impact, suggesting different ways that this impact can be quantified, qualified and presented. 

Tim Davies-Pugh, Chief Executive of Power to Change said: “We know from working closely with community businesses for so many years that community work is climate work. By prioritising social, economic and environmental improvements in their local communities they act as hubs of action for change and are exceptionally well placed to drive long-term climate impact. 

But in order to feel the full benefit of this action, we must find ways to help more community businesses achieve financial viability and ensure that they have the tools needed to evidence their climate impacts, so that policy makers cannot fail to recognise the transformative potential of these organisations.” 

The report also explores different types of business models or climate action community businesses looking to create positive climate impacts can take. The Climate Opportunity Map outlines the impacts, opportunities, barriers and some successful examples of community businesses operating within the following models: 

– Community owned wind turbines 

– Paint recycling schemes 

– Flower farms 

– E-car clubs and car sharing 

– Recycling and upcycling 

– Community farming 

– Vegetable boxes 

– Bike repair and sales 

– Building retrofit 

– Eco-hubs 

Within the Climate Opportunity Map four key domains are set out to help provide a comprehensive understanding of the different models: finance, risk, scalability and people. Inspired by Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index (Wolf et al 2022), the Map enables community businesses to identify where the challenges of a particular business model might be, to understand where attention will need to be focused, and to apply good practice for overcoming barriers. 

Tony Armstrong, Chief Executive of Locality said: “The impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly visible and are already exacerbating existing societal inequalities – from food and fuel poverty to housing. This research highlights the vital role that community businesses already play in tackling the climate crisis at the local level, and the opportunities emerging for community businesses to contribute to positive climate outcomes.

At Locality, we are lucky enough to work with inspiring community businesses who are taking important climate action, every day. From electric car-sharing clubs to retrofit projects, building wind turbines, to running local organic food hubs – these organisations serve as beacons of hope in the face of an, at times daunting, set of challenges. They must now be given the power and resources to drive forward meaningful change.”

Community businesses in all regions of the UK are already playing a vital part in working towards net zero and building resilient communities and there has never been a more important time for policy makers, businesses and local people to come together to amplify this work.