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Poll Says Utility Companies And Football Clubs Are ‘Profiteering At Expense Of Consumers’

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According to a survey released by Social Enterprise UK, football clubs and utility companies are named as the industries to be making an excessive or unfair profit at the expense of consumers.

The findings of the poll, which surveyed the British public, show that two-thirds (67%) of the British public think football clubs are profiteering at the expenses of consumers. They are followed closely by electricity, gas and water companies (61%), and television subscription providers such as Sky, Virgin, BT and Talk Talk (61%). Train companies are believed to be profiteering by 58% of people, followed by banks (53%).

The YouGov poll has been released ahead of Social Saturday which takes place later this week on 15th October. The day aims to inspire people to buy from British social enterprises – well-known names include The Big Issue, Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant chain, Divine Chocolate and Belu Water.

Free of shareholders, social enterprises are able to plough their profits back into the business to deliver on their social or environmental mission, which might be getting ex-offenders back into work or reducing food waste.

Britain is home to 70,000 social enterprises and to an increasing number of Social Enterprise Places. These towns, cities and villages, including Gateshead, Salford and Plymouth, are nurturing social enterprises to start-up and grow to tackle local issues and to help communities flourish.

The poll also reveals that awareness of social enterprise is rising amongst the British public. A majority (51%) are now aware of these alternative businesses, compared with 37% two years ago in 2014. In 2008, only 1 in 5 (20%) British adults were aware of social enterprise.

Geographical differences

The polling reveals that while more people living in Scotland, the North and the Midlands than in other parts of the UK think that banks are profiteering at the expense of consumers (55%), more people in Wales than anywhere else think the same of businesses operating in childcare (30%).

More people living in the East than anywhere else think that businesses in the food industry (including supermarkets) are making an unfair profit (26%), while more people in the Midlands than anywhere else think the same of insurance companies (57%). A greater number of people living in London than anywhere else in Britain think that train companies are profiteering at the expense of consumers (62%).

And while more people living in the South than anywhere else believe that utility companies are making an excessive profit (64%), more people in the North than anywhere else believe the same of football clubs (71%) and television subscription providers such as Sky, Virgin, BT and Talk Talk (64%).

Peter Holbrook CBE, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise UK, the national campaigning body for the sector, said:

The findings of this poll tell us that in some industries British consumers are really losing out and it’s a sign that capitalism has gone wrong.

“The public are getting a rough deal because some businesses have an insatiable appetite for profit.

“There are social enterprise alternatives in almost every industry that consumers can buy from. These businesses are free of the shackles of profit-hungry shareholders, which means that they’re free to put customers and communities first. One of the reasons that the UK’s social enterprise movement is growing is because people care about the ripple effect of their spending. Research shows that an increasing number of social enterprises are selling products and services to British consumers.”

Social Saturday

On Saturday 15th October, social enterprises around the country are opening their doors and hosting events to motivate the British public to ‘buy social’. Local MPs are also visiting social enterprises in their constituencies. Visit www.socialsaturday.org.uk to find out what’s happening near you and to buy from social enterprises online.

Social enterprise case studies

Fan-owned AFC Wimbledon Football Club was founded by its supporters in 2002 as a direct reaction to the decision by an independent commission appointed by the Football Association to allow Wimbledon F.C. to relocate to Milton Keynes. The majority of Wimbledon F.C. supporters opposed the idea of moving the club more than 50 miles away from Wimbledon. Wimbledon F.C. physically moved in 2003 and then changed the name of the club to Milton Keynes Dons in 2004. In its short history, AFC Wimbledon has been extremely successful, being promoted six times in thirteen seasons, and going up from the ninth tier (Combined Counties Premier) to the third (League One).

Dwr Cymru Welsh Water is a not-for-profit water company which has no shareholders and operates solely for the benefit of its 1.3m customers. In June 2016 it announced a £32m windfall for its customers – a first for the UK utility industry. Previously customers have received a reduction in bills, but for the first time Welsh Water is returning the value through a series of investments identified as community priorities in research carried out by the company. This will include investing in on-site renewable energy schemes that will lower the carbon intensity of the business while helping to keep bills down in the future. The company will also increase help for customers who are struggling to pay their bills.

Energise Barnsley has been setup with Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council to deliver community owned renewable energy and heating projects. It aims to alleviate fuel poverty and support vulnerable people living in the borough. So far more than 300 council owned homes have received free solar PV assets: 75% of the houses are bungalows in which elderly tenants live. All homes have a solar electricity reader which helps residents maximise their savings by indicating when the solar panels are generating and when to use the free electricity. Energise Barnsley is channelling all surplus profits from the generation of renewable electricity into a Community Fund to improve the lives of those living in the community.

Award-winning Plymouth Energy Community aims to give people in Plymouth the power to change how they buy, use and generate energy. Run by the community for the community, this social enterprise reducing energy bills for local people, improves energy efficiency and generates a green energy supply in the city. On Social Saturday the team will be offering guided tours around its Community Solar Farm in Ernesettle to show people how the solar farm works and tell visitors about their work.

Triodos Bank connects individual savers and investors who believe in a fairer, more sustainable world with the social enterprises, charities and businesses that are making it a reality. The bank only lends money to organisations that make a positive difference to people and the planet.

UK social enterprise facts

Britain’s social enterprise sector contributes 24bn to the economy and employs one million people [1].
Social enterprises are much more likely to be led by women than mainstream businesses. Forty per cent of social enterprises have a female chief executive, compared with 7% of FTSE 100 companies.
Start-up boom: Close to half (49%) of all social enterprises are five years old or less, and a third (35%) are three years old or less – more than three times the proportion of SME start-ups.
The majority of social enterprises (59%) actively employ people who are disadvantaged in the labour market, including ex-offenders, people with disabilities and the long-term unemployed.
Three quarters (74%) of social enterprises pay the Living Wage as accredited by the Living Wage Foundation [2].

Energy

7 New Technologies That Could Radically Change Our Energy Consumption

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Energy Consumption
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Syda Productions | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/dolgachov

Most of our focus on technological development to lessen our environmental impact has been focused on cleaner, more efficient methods of generating electricity. The cost of solar energy production, for example, is slated to fall more than 75 percent between 2010 and 2020.

This is a massive step forward, and it’s good that engineers and researchers are working for even more advancements in this area. But what about technologies that reduce the amount of energy we demand in the first place?

Though it doesn’t get as much attention in the press, we’re making tremendous progress in this area, too.

New Technologies to Watch

These are some of the top emerging technologies that have the power to reduce our energy demands:

  1. Self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are still in development, but they’re already being hailed as potential ways to eliminate a number of problems on the road, including the epidemic of distracted driving ironically driven by other new technologies. However, even autonomous vehicle proponents often miss the tremendous energy savings that self-driving cars could have on the world. With a fleet of autonomous vehicles at our beck and call, consumers will spend less time driving themselves and more time carpooling, dramatically reducing overall fuel consumption once it’s fully adopted.
  2. Magnetocaloric tech. The magnetocaloric effect isn’t exactly new—it was actually discovered in 1881—but it’s only recently being studied and applied to commercial appliances. Essentially, this technology relies on changing magnetic fields to produce a cooling effect, which could be used in refrigerators and air conditioners to significantly reduce the amount of electricity required.
  3. New types of insulation. Insulation is the best asset we have to keep our homes thermoregulated; they keep cold or warm air in (depending on the season) and keep warm or cold air out (again, depending on the season). New insulation technology has the power to improve this efficiency many times over, decreasing our need for heating and cooling entirely. For example, some new automated sealing technologies can seal gaps between 0.5 inches wide and the width of a human hair.
  4. Better lights. Fluorescent bulbs were a dramatic improvement over incandescent bulbs, and LEDs were a dramatic improvement over fluorescent bulbs—but the improvements may not end there. Scientists are currently researching even better types of light bulbs, and more efficient applications of LEDs while they’re at it.
  5. Better heat pumps. Heat pumps are built to transfer heat from one location to another, and can be used to efficiently manage temperatures—keeping homes warm while requiring less energy expenditure. For example, some heat pumps are built for residential heating and cooling, while others are being used to make more efficient appliances, like dryers.
  6. The internet of things. The internet of things and “smart” devices is another development that can significantly reduce our energy demands. For example, “smart” windows may be able to respond dynamically to changing light conditions to heat or cool the house more efficiently, and “smart” refrigerators may be able to respond dynamically to new conditions. There are several reasons for this improvement. First, smart devices automate things, so it’s easier to control your energy consumption. Second, they track your consumption patterns, so it’s easier to conceptualize your impact. Third, they’re often designed with efficiency in mind from the beginning, reducing energy demands, even without the high-tech interfaces.
  7. Machine learning. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have the power to improve almost every other item on this list. By studying consumer patterns and recommending new strategies, or automatically controlling certain features, machine learning algorithms have the power to fundamentally change how we use energy in our homes and businesses.

Making the Investment

All technologies need time, money, and consumer acceptance to be developed. Fortunately, a growing number of consumers are becoming enthusiastic about finding new ways to reduce their energy consumption and overall environmental impact. As long as we keep making the investment, our tools to create cleaner energy and demand less energy in the first place should have a massive positive effect on our environment—and even our daily lives.

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Environment

Two Ancient Japanese Philosophies Are the Future of Eco-Living

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Eco-Living
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Our obsession with all things new has blighted the planet. We have a waste crisis, particularly when it comes to plastic. US scientists have calculated the total amount of plastic ever made – 8.3 billion tons! Unfortunately, only 9% of this is estimated to have been recycled. And current global trends point to there being 12 billion tons of plastic waste by 2050.

However, two ancient Japanese philosophies are providing an antidote to the excesses of modern life. By emphasizing the elimination of waste and the acceptance of the old and imperfect, the concepts of Mottainai and Wabi-Sabi have positively influenced Japanese life for centuries.

They are now making their way into the consciousness of the Western mainstream, with an increasing influence in the UK and US. By encouraging us to be frugal with our possessions, (i.e. using natural materials for interior design) these concepts can be the future of eco-living.

What is Wabi-Sabi and Mottainai??

Wabi-Sabi emphasizes an acceptance of transience and imperfection. Although Wabi had the original meaning of sad and lonely, it has come to describe those that are simple, unmaterialistic and at one with nature. The term Sabi is defined as the “the bloom of time”, and has evolved into a new meaning: taking pleasure and seeing beauty in things that are old and faded. 

Any flaws in objects, like cracks or marks, are cherished because they illustrate the passage of time. Wear and tear is seen as a representation of their loving use. This makes it intrinsically linked to Wabi, due to its emphasis on simplicity and rejection of materialism.

In the West, Wabi-Sabi has infiltrated many elements of daily life, from cuisine to interior design. Specialist Japanese homeware companies, like Sansho, source handmade products that embody the Wabi-Sabi philosophy. Their products, largely made from natural materials, are handcrafted by traditional Japanese artisans – meaning no two pieces are the same and no two pieces are “perfect” in size or shape.

Mottainai

Mottainai is a term expressing a feeling of regret concerning waste, translating roughly in English to either “what a waste!” or “Don’t waste!”. The philosophy emphasizes the intrinsic value of a resource or object, and is linked to hinto animism, the notion that all objects have a spirit, or ‘kami’. The idea that we are part of nature is a key part of Japanese psychology.

Mottainai also has origins in Buddhist philosophy. The Buddhist monastic tradition emphasizes a life of frugality, to allow us to concentrate on attaining enlightenment. It is from this move towards frugality that a link to Mottainai as a concept of waste can be made.

How have Wabi-Sabi and Mottainai promoted eco living?

Wabi-Sabi is still a prominent feature of Japanese life today, and has remained instrumental in the way people design their homes. The ideas of imperfection and frugality are hugely influential.

For example, instead of buying a brand-new kitchen table, many Japanese people instead retain a table that has been passed through the generations. Although its long use can be seen by various marks and scratches, Wabi-Sabi has taught people that they should value it because of its imperfect nature. Those scratches and marks are a story and signify the passage of time. This is a far cry from what we typically associate with the Western World.

Like Wabi Sabi, Mottainai is manifested throughout Japanese life, creating a great respect for Japanese resources. This has had a major impact on home design. For example, the Japanese prefer natural materials in their homes, such as using soil and dried grass as thermal insulation.

Their influence in the UK

The UK appears to be increasingly influenced by thes two concepts. Some new reports indicate that Wabi Sabi has been labelled as ‘the trend of 2018’. For example, Japanese ofuro baths inspired the project that won the New London Architecture’s 2017 Don’t Move, Improve award. Ofuro baths are smaller than typical baths, use less water, and are usually made out of natural materials, like hinoki wood.

Many other UK properties have also been influenced by these philosophies, such as natural Kebony wood being applied to the external cladding of a Victorian property in Hampstead; or a house in Lancaster Gate using rice paper partitions as sub-dividers. These examples embody the spirit of both philosophies. They are representative of Mottainai because of their use of natural resources to discourage waste. And they’re reflective of Wabi-Sabi because they accept imperfect materials that have not been engineered or modified.

In a world that is plagued by mass over-consumption and an incessant need for novelty, the ancient concepts of Mottainai and Wabi-Sabi provide a blueprint for living a more sustainable life. They help us to reduce consumption and put less of a strain on the planet. This refreshing mindset can help us transform the way we go about our day to day lives.

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