Today’s dominating economic model is linear: We take virgin natural resources and make products from them which we then discard once we’re done using them — often after a relatively short time. Sometimes the short lifespan is due to planned obsolescence where products break easily and are difficult to repair and upgrade.
In a circular economy, resources are handled in a more responsible way. The goal is to extend product lifetime and recirculate all materials without producing any waste.
Product reuse is more resource efficient than recycling since most materials lose value every time they are recycled. Therefore, extending product lifetime is the best way of lowering its environmental impact. In a circular economy, products are built to last. They are durable and can be upgraded and repaired. Parts can be replaced — for example batteries, since functioning products often are discarded just because of worn-out batteries.
The circular economy also opens up opportunities for new and innovative business models and concepts. New ways of accessing products lower the environmental impact. For example, people can share products and own them together to get access to products that they don’t need daily. Renting and leasing products create more flexibility and make it more likely that one product has multiple owners during its lifetime. Companies increasingly offer products-as-a-service solutions where access to functions, maintenance, repair and upgrades are included in a service that the customer purchases. When products live longer, more people are engaged in repair and maintenance businesses.
Ecological competences are a basic life-skills that every human being should be aware of and develop from really early age. An ecologically literate person understands that we are all part of a living system, where the key principles are about interdependence and interconnectedness. An ecologically literate person translates this understanding into actions that demonstrate conscious efforts to minimize negative impacts on our life-sustaining systems and maximize value contribution to our collective well being, now and for the future generations.
Wide ranging eco-competences are prerequisite for sustainability, critical life skill and understanding that politicians, corporate and educational leaders, and professionals of every field should develop. If we take serious the transformational changes required for a sustainable society and future, it should have been the most important goal for education at all levels – institutional educational systems, non-formal education process and life-long learning projects. It is widely acknowledged that this type of education is critical for our collective wellbeing and even our survival.
Improving eco-competences can add significant value to the development and implementation of the 'New Green Deal'. All sectors will need eco-competent employees from innovation to physical work, therefore starting introducing or these competences are essential on labor market as well.
Non-formal education and youth programs have a key role to take active participation in training of educators and young generation. Also, because this sector can respond to such needs quicker and can also support state educational systems.
Social entrepreneurship is an approach by individuals, groups, start-up companies or entrepreneurs, in which they develop, fund and implement solutions to social, cultural, or environmental issues. This concept may be applied to a wide range of organizations, which vary in size, aims, and beliefs. For-profit entrepreneurs typically measure performance using business metrics like profit, revenues and increases in stock prices. Social entrepreneurs, however, are either non-profits, or they blend for-profit goals with generating a positive "return to society". Therefore, they use different metrics. Social entrepreneurship typically attempts to further broad social, cultural, and environmental goals often associated with the voluntary sector in areas such as poverty alleviation, health care and community development.
At times, profit-making social enterprises may be established to support the social or cultural goals of the organization but not as an end in themselves. For example, an organization that aims to provide housing and employment to the homeless may operate a restaurant, both to raise money and to provide employment for the homeless. (Wikipedia)
Social entrepreneurship is rather an approach that a form of business. Depending the country, there are different forms of social entrepreneurship, some get more governmental recognition and support, however, a for profit Ltd can be considered as social business based on how what their priorities are and how they spend the remaining profit. In case the top priorities or goals are not profit generation above all cost, rather generate social, cultural and environmental projects, they can be considered social businesses.
Innovations on Environment Fields
Innovations on Environment Fields are a powerful and valuable tool in the environmental sector. It involves social groups and communities creating, developing and diffusing ideas and solutions to address pressing social needs. More recently, social innovation has been gaining policy attention, providing a means to stimulate new ideas that address complex issues alongside ensuring citizen participation. Due to its participatory and creative nature, it is well positioned to address environmental challenges, which are multifaceted and often require societal or behavioural shifts towards more sustainable options. There is a broad diversity of social innovation, making the concept difficult to define, theoretically capture and systematically evaluate. However, despite the challenge of formulating frameworks, developing indicators and conducting evaluations, this does not lessen the value of these activities in supporting the development of this important field. Various frameworks have been developed to describe and understand social innovation. These highlight the importance of a number of processes, such as the formation of a group identity, the reframing of the problem to provide a new approach, the engagement of stakeholders and the establishment of consistent and motivated leadership by either an individual or core group. Some frameworks also provide valuable insight into the diffusion process and the coupling of social and technical innovation. Although frameworks and models are useful they need to be accompanied by case studies to portray the real-life processes, challenges and impacts of social innovation in the environmental sector.
Employability of young people are a significant issue especially because both need and the labor market changes more rapidly than ever. It is challenging for all educational systems to follow the recent trends, they need to prethink and predict what these requirements will be and prepare the young generation with skills and competences that are adoptable for the need of the future labor market.
'Nowadays young people face disproportionately high labour market risks: from a higher likelihood of losing a job and long-term unemployment, to higher employee turnover and a growing number of precarious jobs. For instance, as of 2017, the global youth unemployment rate was at 13%, which is three times higher than the adult rate of 4.3% (ILO, 2018). As a result of the financial and economic crisis, the rate of youth long-term unemployment (12 months or longer) has steadily grown in the EU, from 3.1% in 2008 to 7.1% in 2013' (Employability revisited - Pantea-Potocnik)
Green Digital Future
Europe has ambitious goals for the future. Under the Paris Agreement, the Union committed itself to become climate neutral by 2050. This goal can only be achieved through a comprehensive transformation towards a green and digital economy—and the European Green Digital Coalition aims at decisively advancing the market-led transformation of the continent’s businesses. The Coalition is an initiative by the European Parliament, supported by the European Commission, to green the ICT sector itself and bring the emission-reducing potential of its solutions to bear on all other sectors. CEOs of the signatory companies commit themselves to
- Invest in the development and deployment of green digital solutions with significant energy and material efficiency that achieve a net positive impact in a wide range of sectors.
- Engage with relevant organisations to develop standardised, credible and comparable assessment methodologies for the net impact of green digital solutions on the environment and climate in priority sectors such as energy, transport, manufacturing, agriculture and the building sector.
- Promote cross-sectoral dialogue and contribute to the development of guidelines and recommendations for the deployment of green digital solutions in different sectors, and to encourage workforce upskilling.
It should be taken into account that some initiatives of large multinationals turn out to be greenwashing rather than genuinely impactful solutions to the climate catastrophe. On the other hand, Europe is home to many innovative SMEs and startups who have sustainability at the centre of their business philosophy.