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  • 5 minutes
  • 17/11/2022

Climate change and cost of living: is social value the answer?

As COP27 marches on, energy costs rise and the cost of living becomes unmanageable for many, we need to look towards that holistic solution to solve both crises.

The world’s focus is currently on COP27 and so it should be. Leaders from across the globe have the ability to determine the fate of life as we know it, so it’s not surprising it’s an emotional topic for us onlookers, and the outputs can feel met with a hope and criticism in equal measure.

Whilst the climate crisis is a particularly hot topic as a result of COP27, the cost of living challenge rages on. People are already losing homes, sending children to school hungry and cutting down on non-essentials.

On the face of it, you might think these two crises are separate issues. One has been a growing crisis for decades, the other has leapt upon societies rapidly in recent months, exacerbated by the macroeconomic landscape and the war in Ukraine.

There is a perception that tackling climate change might now need to be put on the back burner as the cost of living increases. Can the government provide support for the most vulnerable while tackling environmental challenges?

But what if the two crises are inextricably linked? By rooting out the underlying causes of both crises I believe we can uncover opportunities to tackle both at the same time. It boils down to taking a measured approach to Social Value.

What needs to be tackled?

Let’s start by looking at just a few causes of both crises – of course, there are many. People’s energy use is a key factor in global warming. We need to move to renewable energy use and adopt electric vehicles, for example, but the cost of this is out of reach for many people, or the infrastructure doesn’t yet work.

Energy use is also at the heart of the cost-of-living crisis. The energy price cap in the UK is almost double this winter than last. People are facing a harsh choice – stay warm or eat a meal. And there’s a similar story across many European nations.

In short, if we don’t tackle inequality, we won’t get to net zero and hundreds of thousands of people won’t be able to heat their homes this winter.

Another cause of the climate crisis is food production. There are many studies that show eating meat, or processing it into cheap ready meals, has a huge environmental impact. Many experts believe we need to change our diets to save our environment.

But buying organic, local meat and other foods is generally more expensive. When a cheap supermarket burger is a third of the price, what will many people have to purchase? Nutrition is a low priority compared to having something to eat at all.

There is a collective responsibility for both the government and communities to address all these issues. They are huge challenges, and it will take time.

Social Value – the double-edged solution

To reduce that time, we need to stop treating them as separate issues – we don’t need separate plans of attack. There is a real opportunity to alleviate both crises by taking a measured approach to social value.

Supporting vulnerable people to adopt renewable energy will not only address carbon emissions but will save them money. And helping people move into skilled jobs will help them afford more nutritious food. To date, we’ve seen organisations generate over £77 million of social value through jobs for disadvantaged people, supporting those into work who need it the most.

When tackling any crisis, the best way to know if you’re making a difference is to measure it. If we understand the impact of what we do, we can maximise the social value created.

Our complete measurement solution can be used to quantify and track the impact you are having – and to tell the world in such a way that more people will be inspired by your example. This year we overhauled the National TOMs’ environment Theme to help businesses respond to the climate crisis quicker. As an example, we can already see over £65 million of social value create through decarbonising activities and an encouragement to move away from reliance on fossil fuels. We can tackle two birds with one stone.

If we do nothing, these crises are going to deepen further. The Trussell Trust said that in the last six months, more than 320,000 people have been forced to visit a food bank for the first time. The charity has given out more than a third more food parcels than in the same period in 2021. And we all saw the impact that climate change is having on extreme weather.

When we understand the social value we create, it becomes easier to do more. Together, we can tackle both crises through joined up approaches that will support both people and the planet.

Our upcoming roundtable webinar on Tuesday 29 November will bring experts together to look at how we can tackle the cost of living and the climate crisis at the same time. Find out more and register here.