Entrepreneurial Solutions = A Sustainable Future

Let’s make the North East the best place in the UK to start, run and grow a sustainable business!

Sustainable Business

PNE Group supports the SDGs: an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership

Two recent influential reports have brought into sharp focus the urgent need for all of us to take a more radical and sustainable approach to the way we live our lives in order to protect the planet and its biodiversity for future generations.

Firstly, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report warns that the health of ecosystems on which we, and all other species, depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever, and that globally over 1m species are threatened with extinction. The report states that we are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide. The report calls for ‘transformative changes’ to restore and protect nature.

Secondly, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) report sets ambitious new targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050 – ending the UK’s contribution to global warming within 30 years. Achieving ‘net-zero’ by the middle of the century is in line with the UK’s commitment under the Paris Agreement and if replicated globally, this would give a greater than 50% chance of staying below the 1.5°C temperature rise threshold.

The report highlights a number of areas that will be pivotal in achieving its target, including: quadrupling the supply of low-carbon electricity; energy efficient buildings and low carbon heating in homes; electric vehicles; developing carbon capture and storage technology and low-carbon hydrogen; increasing tree planting (planting an extra 3bn trees by 2050); and, measures to stop emissions on farms.

The report isn’t built on blue-sky thinking – many of the report’s targets are achievable with known technologies – alongside improvements in people’s lives (setting our thermostats to no higher than 19°C; eating less red meat; reducing the number of flights we take; and, ditching gas boilers by 2050). The report also believes the cost of all this is also ‘manageable’ at an annual cost of 1-2% of GDP to 2050.

In fact, the cost of renewable clean energy has reduced significantly as the result of technology improvements and cost savings due to mass production, and solar energy has come down in price by around 80% since 2008.

The report is clear that the government must lead the process by setting the policy and legal framework, while people need to be empowered to change their lives and embrace the changes required – at a manageable cost. Furthermore, surveys show that people are already on board with climate change and are very keen for policies to be put in place.

We believe that, in addition to action by governments and legislators, these pressing environmental, economic and social challenges represent an opportunity for businesses. The ingenuity and drive of a new wave of entrepreneurs with smart, sustainable solutions will be key in meeting the energy and resource needs of a growing population.

In order to support a new wave of entrepreneurs with the vision to deliver products and services that contribute to a more sustainable future that protects people, planet and profits, PNE launched the North East region’s only grants programme for innovative start-ups tackling issues around sustainability that support the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As well as funding, entrepreneurs benefit from mentoring, networking and a programme of workshops and inspirational masterclasses delivered by sustainability leaders.

Sustainable Business Support

By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans.

Since launching in 2018, our Sustainable Start-up Award has funded 17 businesses ranging from ethical fashion to repurposing waste plastic. The funded businesses are addressing 12 out of the 17 SDGs, with the three most popular SDGs being ‘Responsible Production and Consumption’, ‘Climate Action’, and ‘Reduced Inequalities’.

One of the businesses to receive a Sustainable Start-up Award is tackling plastic waste which is a problem of global magnitude: It’s estimated that a lorry load of plastic enters our oceans every minute. If nothing changes, this is set to increase to four lorry loads by 2050, at which point there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans. Furthermore, a staggering 78% of the 400m tonnes of plastic produced annually is not recycled, with most of it instead ending up in landfill, sent for incineration, or discarded into our natural environment.

Launched in 2018 by Durham University Chemistry PhD students, Scott Bush, Natasha Boulding and Phil Buckley, Plastech Innovation is developing a novel solution to reduce the volume of plastic waste entering our natural environment by reprocessing undesirable mixed and low grade plastic waste supplied by waste management companies, plastic manufacturers and local authorities into eco-friendly and lightweight aggregate for use in construction materials, such as concrete

Another recipient of a Sustainable Start-up Award is helping to reduce the negative impacts of fast fashion, which is the second largest cause of pollution in the world. In 2017, an estimated 235m items of clothing were sent to landfill. It is estimated that 70m trees are cut down to make textiles for clothing, and 70m barrels of oil are used in the production of synthetic materials to cope with the increasing demand for faster, cheaper fashion, which has been accelerated by consumer obsession with ‘new’ – primarily thanks to social media. The repercussions of the production and consumption of fast fashion have been detrimental for the environment, with an estimated 1.26bn tons of greenhouse gas emissions being produced annually by the fashion industry alone.

Launched in May 2018 by Isabella West, Newcastle-based Hirestreet is a high-street fashion rental website that offers consumers outfits and garments to rent from high-street brands and stores. This means that outfits that typically would have been worn only a handful of times will be reworn: Hirestreet aims to rent out each of its garments at least 16 times, estimating that the environmental impact of each garment is reduced by up to 70% by doing this.

Sustainable Start-up Award

PNE supports start-ups like Plastech, which re-purposes plastic destined for landfill for one of the UK’s most wasteful industries.

Hirestreet and Plastech Innovation demonstrate that the North East is home to innovative entrepreneurs with sustainable solutions to combat pressing environmental and social challenges.

To enable even more young North East entrepreneurs to realise their sustainable goals, we want to create a bigger, perpetual fund to ensure the region is at the forefront in the development of enterprises that enable us all to live more sustainable lives.

Will you support sustainable business?

Learn more about how you can work with PNE to achieve your goals >

How to get involved?

Whether you’re ready to come on board or are simply curious to learn more, we’re happy to discuss what value you want to create for your business or what challenges are important to you and your organisation. We’re here to talk, and there are many ways to get involved.

To find out more, get in touch with Billie Jenkins today for a (no obligation!) chat at billie.jenkins@pne.org or on 07789073287.