In an era of growing environmental and social consciousness, the concept of a "just transition" has gained significant attention, particularly for those organisations leading the way in social responsibility, like charities and social enterprises.  

This blog aims to provide a simple, jargon-free explanation for what it means and, importantly, how it is likely to affect charities, social enterprises and community organisations and the pivotal role they play in driving this transformation.

What is a Just Transition? 

Put simply, the term refers to an equitable and sustainable shift from a carbon-intensive economy to one that is environmentally friendly, inclusive, and fair. This transition is essential to lessen the impacts of climate change and address social inequalities while encouraging sustainable economic development.  

The Role of Charities and Social Enterprises in a Just Transition 

Moving away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy sources 

Recent research from SEUK shows that 84% of Social Enterprises believe that buying products that are socially responsible and environmentally friendly is as important – or more important – than cost.  

Charities and social enterprises are usually early adopters to impactful, new ways of working that can have a positive effect on those involved. Their willingness to explore and develop innovative solutions and products to tackle climate change and promote sustainability will be key in driving change across other sectors.  

They can also lead by example, adopting sustainable practices within their own operations like reducing waste, conserving energy and prioritising ethical sourcing.  

Any organisations looking to switch to renewable energy sources and thinking about finance, can head to our Energy Resilience Hub to learn more about how social investment might support these plans.

The creation of green jobs and reskilling those that are currently operating in declining industries 

According to a recent survey, one in five jobs (approximately 6.3 million) are likely to be affected by the transition to a green economy.  

Many charities and social enterprises already provide training programmes, job placement services, and employment support, making them well-placed to provide suitable avenues for workers transitioning to sustainable sectors. 

Despite some perceptions, this isn’t just about the multinational corporations operating on a global scale. Smaller organisations will play a detrimental role in supporting this change and are typically the ones that operate from the heart of the very communities most affected by these shifts.  

Environmental justice for marginalised communities that are disproportionately affected by the negative impact of pollution and climate change 

Charities and social enterprises already play a vital role in advocating for social and environmental justice across the various issues they are tackling in the UK and beyond.  

They can leverage this expertise to support a Just Transition through policy advocacy, community empowerment, and education and awareness to help bring their audiences along on this journey with them.  

You can read more about this through the report on Disability inclusion in UK climate action, a briefing on How will the climate and nature crises impact people from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority Communities and through an organisation called Race Report.  

Community involvement and empowerment  

Finally, organisations in the social sector can harness the power of their strong ties to the communities they serve to adopt a user-led approach to the Just Transition.  

They can provide a voice for these communities by championing community-driven projects and ensuring local people have a say on potential plans for their area, with consideration to the bigger picture and end goal of a just transition.  

The power of the community is something that’s been proven time and time again, and it’s only through regular engagement with those on the ground, living and experiencing the ever-changing landscape of climate change, can we truly achieve solutions to establish a greener future.  

Learn more about how social enterprises, charities and community organisations are leading the way in relation to Climate Action via My Community and the Climate Action Network.

What’s next?  

A just transition is more than a theoretical concept. it's essential for our planet's future. Charities and social enterprises in the UK have a pivotal role to play in this transformation.  

By advocating for policies that prioritise equity and sustainability, engaging with affected communities, and promoting innovative solutions, they can help navigate the path towards a fair and sustainable future. 

What is your organisation doing as part of the Just Transition and how has it affected your activity and the products / services you deliver? Let us know on X (formerly known as Twitter) via @GoodFinanceUK.  

For more information on all things renewable and how your organisation can practically install measures to tackle climate change, head to the Good Finance Energy Resilience Hub.