It’s time for SSE to step up our climate action – and we’d like your input

28 Oct 2021

By Sue Osborne, director of SSE in Yorkshire & North East and a member of SSE’s Climate Action Group.

We are on the cusp of COP26: the most important decision-making forum for world governments to tackle environmental issues. It is an opportune time for all of us at SSE to reflect on the action we wish to take, at this critical moment in addressing climate change.

We’ve made some progress on supporting environmental issues

We’re not coming from a standing start. We have an incredible network of SSE fellows, an increasing number of whom aspire for environmental justice alongside social justice.

In our sector, two-thirds of social enterprises have already embedded, or plan to embed, tackling climate change into their constitution / articles of association (source: Social Enterprise UK).

Our Environmental Entrepreneurs and Scale+Innovate: Environment & Conservation programmes have supported dozens of social leaders to increase and clearly articulate their environmental impact.

We have written into our new organisational strategy (being published soon) a desire to embed climate action throughout our operations.

But we have plenty more work to do at SSE on tackling climate change

And yet… when we are willing to be vulnerable and take an honest look at ourselves, it feels like there is a lot of work still to do. We need to take more action before we at SSE can hold our heads high in our role in addressing climate change.

When we sit alongside colleagues and do some serious soul-searching at SSE, we realise our environmental and climate credentials are not as good as we would like them to be.

How will we step up to be a part of the solution? How do we move from words in a strategy document to real action? How do we educate, inform and ultimately inspire our work colleagues to take action alongside us?

We don’t need to be experts to start taking action

I believe all journeys start with awareness. It helps to have knowledge and understanding of the issue, before we can start to address it.

That awareness can take many forms. A brilliant small team of staff have volunteered for our internal Climate Action Group – including me. All of us have identified significant personal interest in climate action. We are keen to bring this into our professional lives.

As a member of this group, I am clear: I am no expert in this space. But I am hungry to learn. I want to do more. Knowledge and energy will drive me to do more.

But we don’t need to be experts in the environment to start taking action today. There is already lots of advice available on how we can take manageable steps to do our bit.

Our next steps at SSE – we need your views!

To focus our drive for change, we asked the wider SSE team to come up with a series of provocations. For example:

  • What do politicians, funders and big business really need to hear from SSE about climate action?
  • What are the differences between social enterprises and traditional businesses when it comes to making climate-based decisions?
  • Many of our social entrepreneurs do not yet have environmental justice as a primary aim. We are in a wonderful position to influence and inspire them when they engage in our programmes. What do they need from us?
  • What knowledge might we need to gain, in order to up-skill ourselves in this area?

As we continue to question ourselves internally, we invite all of you in our community to explore these questions with us. We’d like you to inform our next steps, and hold us to account on taking climate action.

Follow our #SocEnt4Climate hashtag on Twitter and LinkedIn to share your views about what SSE should be doing, and what support you need from us to take climate action yourself.

Join us in recognising where we are falling short. We need to challenge ourselves to do everything we possibly can to address climate change.