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ASDA Launches UK’S First Social Enterprise Supplier Academy

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Asda has teamed up with Social Investment Scotland (SIS) to launch the UK’s first Social Enterprise Supplier Development Academy, with the aim of increasing the availability of social enterprise products for ethically-minded consumers on supermarket shelves.

Funded through the proceeds from Asda’s carrier bag charge in Scotland totalling around £750,000, SIS will help Asda run the programme whilst continuing to provide small loans through SIS Community Capital, the fund set up in partnership with Asda last year.

The new Academy will support up to eight Scottish social enterprises to strengthen their understanding of supermarket retail and refine their commercial and marketing skills, building on the success of Asda’s existing supplier development academy to support Scottish SMEs.

From today until 12pm on 14th March, product based social enterprises will be able to apply for a coveted place within the pioneering Academy. Following a shortlisting process carried out by both Asda and SIS, a number of social enterprises will be invited for interview by a panel in a Dragon’s Den style pitch format for the final eight places.

The successful social enterprises will benefit from both grant funding to cover their participation and specially developed training modules delivered over three days at Asda House in Leeds to include everything from understanding consumer purchasing to branding and packaging design. Participants will receive access to mentoring provided by Asda’s senior team and to finance through social investment loans from SIS.

Any social enterprises wishing to take part should register their interest at asdaseacademy.strikingly.com where they can also find further information on the Academy and a more detailed Q&A.

Asda’s partnership with Social Investment Scotland represents a significant commitment by the retailer to develop the UK’s social enterprise sector and create a long term sustainable impact within communities across the country. The programme – consisting of both the Academy and SIS Community Capital – will support a growing number of social enterprises to sell products directly to members of the general public. While there are no guarantees that Academy participants will receive a listing with Asda, the skills and support delivered through the Academy will significantly improve their prospects and, more importantly, equip them with the tools to secure deals with other retailers.

Depending on the success of the Scottish programme, SIS and Asda hope to roll out the Academy across England and Wales in the coming months.

Since launching SIS Community Capital last year, the fund has distributed over £300,000 in loans to ten local charities and community projects across Scotland. The most recent organisations to benefit from this investment include the Leith Theatre Trust, the Bay Tree Community Café, Highland Perthshire Media and Venture Mor Ltd.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney, said: “Social enterprises do tremendous work to help the most vulnerable people by improving their confidence and boosting skills, while tackling inequalities in society and growing the economy.

“I am pleased to see that the money raised through the carrier bag charge is being used to launch this Social Enterprise Supplier Development Academy.

“This is an exciting new development for social enterprises in Scotland, the first of its kind, and one which will help the expansion and development of the sector. I commend Asda and Social Investment Scotland for their foresight and work on this important initiative.

“I am keen to hear more about the academy as it develops and look forward to hearing about the work it will do in opening up more opportunities for social enterprises to grow and expand.”

Allan Miller, Asda’s Senior Director for Scotland, said: “At Asda we take great pride in supporting the communities we serve. Our partnership with SIS represents an exciting move beyond traditional grant-making programmes, providing tangible benefits for people across Scotland.

“We provide a lot of support to local suppliers in Scotland to grow their business, many of whom have introduced their products to our stores across the UK. By harnessing the power of our retail experience and expertise, along with our 615-strong store estate and online shopping division, we can help social enterprises to access the large retail market. The potential benefits are multiple – customers get more choice and social enterprises get the support they need to move from small to medium to large business, which in turn could create more jobs, increase investment in local producers and build positive social impact.

“Investing in social entrepreneurs is an innovative way for Asda to ensure that our customers’ money, raised through the carrier bag charge, is continually reinvested in communities and delivers long-term positive benefits for Scotland.”

Nick Kuenssberg, chair, Social Investment Scotland, said: “This current and future undertaking by Asda is a truly significant move. The potential to roll this programme out in England and Wales represents a major development in the size and scope of Social Investment Scotland’s ambition.

Alastair Davis, CEO, Social Investment Scotland, said: “Asda’s commitment to investing in Scotland’s social entrepreneurs is a huge milestone in the development of the social enterprise sector. We’re delighted to be chosen as their sole partner in helping them deliver this goal. Given the breadth of Asda’s footprint across Scotland’s communities, its support in helping to increase the number of social enterprises retailing to the public is a potential game changer. By promoting social enterprise products as viable alternatives to their commercial counterparts, we have a fantastic opportunity to significantly increase the revenues raised by the sector and, in turn, create much more sustainable and long term social impacts for our communities up and down the country.”

Energy

Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis

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Energy Investments
Shutterstock / By Sergey Nivens | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/nivens

Retiring baby-boomers are facing a retirement cliff, at the same time as mother nature unleashes her fury with devastating storms tied to the impact of global warming. There could be a unique solution to the challenges associated with climate change – investments in clean energy from retirement funds.

Financial savings play a very important role in everyone’s life and one must start planning for it as soon as possible. It’s shocking how quickly seniors can burn through their nest egg – leaving many wondering, “How long your retirement savings will last?

Let’s take a closer look at how seniors can take baby steps on the path to retiring with dignity, while helping to clean up our environment.

Tip #1: Focus & Determination

Like in other work, it is very important to focus and be determined. If retirement is around the corner, then make sure to start putting some money away for retirement. No one can ever achieve anything without dedication and focus – whether it’s saving the planet, or saving for retirement.

Tip #2: Minimize Spending

One of the most important things that you need to do is to minimize your expenditures. Reducing consumption is good for the planet too!

Tip #3: Visualize Your Goal

You can achieve more if you have a clearly defined goal in life. This about how your money can be used to better the planet – imagine cleaner air, water and a healthier environment to leave to your grandchildren.

Investing in Clean Energy

One of the hottest and most popular industries for investment today is the energy market – the trading of energy commodities. Clean energy commodities are traded alongside dirty energy supplies. You might be surprised to learn that clean energy is becoming much more competitive.

With green biz becoming more popular, it is quickly becoming a powerful tool for diversified retirement investing.

The Future of Green Biz

As far as the future is concerned, energy businesses are going to continue getting bigger and better. There are many leading energy companies in the market that already have very high stock prices, yet people are continuing to investing in them.

Green initiatives are impacting every industry. Go Green campaigns are a PR staple of every modern brand. For the energy-sector in the US, solar energy investments are considered to be the most accessible form of clean energy investment. Though investing in any energy business comes with some risks, the demand for energy isn’t going anywhere.

In conclusion, if you want to start saving for your retirement, then clean energy stocks and commodity trading are some of the best options for wallets and the planet. Investing in clean energy products, like solar power, is a more long-term investment. It’s quite stable and comes with a significant profit margin. And it’s amazing for the planet!

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Energy

What Should We Make of The Clean Growth Strategy?

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Clean Growth Strategy for green energy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By sdecoret | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/sdecoret

It was hardly surprising the Clean Growth Strategy (CGS) was much anticipated by industry and environmentalists. After all, its publication was pushed back a couple of times. But with the document now in the public domain, and the Government having run a consultation on its content, what ultimately should we make of what’s perhaps one of the most important publications to come out of the Department for Business, Energy and the Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in the past 12 months?

The starting point, inevitably, is to decide what the document is and isn’t. It is, certainly, a lengthy and considered direction-setter – not just for the Government, but for business and industry, and indeed for consumers. While much of the content was favourably received in terms of highlighting ways to ensure clean growth, critics – not unjustifiably – suggested it was long on pages but short on detailed and finite policy commitments, accompanied by clear timeframes for action.

A Strategy, Instead of a Plan

But should we really be surprised? The answer, in all honesty, is probably not really. BEIS ministers had made no secret of the fact they would be publishing a ‘strategy’ as opposed to a ‘plan,’ and that gave every indication the CGS would set a direction of travel and be largely aspirational. The Government had consulted on its content, and will likely respond to the consultation during the course of 2018. And that’s when we might see more defined policy commitments and timeframes from action.

The second criticism one might level at the CGS is that indicated the use of ‘flexibilities’ to achieve targets set in the carbon budgets – essentially using past results to offset more recent failings to keep pace with emissions targets. Claire Perry has since appeared in front of the BEIS Select Committee and insisted she would be personally disappointed if the UK used flexibilities to fill the shortfall in meeting the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, but this is difficult ground for the Government. The Committee on Climate Change was critical of the proposed use of efficiencies, which would somewhat undermine ministers’ good intentions and commitment to clean growth – particularly set against November’s Budget, in which the Chancellor maintained the current carbon price floor (potentially giving a reprieve to coal) and introduced tax changes favourable to North Sea oil producers.

A 12 Month Green Energy Initiative with Real Teeth

But, there is much to appreciate and commend about the CGS. It fits into a 12-month narrative for BEIS ministers, in which they have clearly shown a commitment to clean growth, improving energy efficiency and cutting carbon emissions. Those 12 months have seen the launch of the Industrial Strategy – firstly in Green Paper form, which led to the launch of the Faraday Challenge, and then a White Paper in which clean growth was considered a ‘grand challenge’ for government. Throughout these publications – and indeed again with the CGS – the Government has shown itself to be an advocate of smart systems and demand response, including the development of battery technology.

Electrical Storage Development at Center of Broader Green Energy Push

While the Faraday Challenge is primarily focused on the development of batteries to support the proliferation of electric vehicles (which will support cuts to carbon emissions), it will also drive down technology costs, supporting the deployment of small and utility-scale storage that will fully harness the capability of renewables. Solar and wind made record contributions to UK electricity generation in 2017, and the development of storage capacity will help both reduce consumer costs and support decarbonisation.

The other thing the CGS showed us it that the Government is happy to be a disrupter in the energy market. The headline from the publication was the plans for legislation to empower Ofgem to cap the costs of Standard Variable Tariffs. This had been an aspiration of ministers for months, and there’s little doubt that driving down costs for consumers will be a trend within BEIS policy throughout 2018.

But the Government also seems happy to support disruption in the renewables market, as evidenced by the commitment (in the CGS) to more than half a billion pounds of investment in Pot 2 of Contracts for Difference (CfDs) – where the focus will be on emerging rather than established technologies.

This inevitably prompted ire from some within the industry, particularly proponents of solar, which is making an increasing contribution to the UK’s energy mix. But, again, we shouldn’t really be surprised. Since the subsidy cuts of 2015, ministers have given no indication or cause to think there will be public money afforded to solar development. Including solar within the CfD auction would have been a seismic shift in policy. And while ministers’ insistence in subsidy-free solar as the way forward has been shown to be based on a single project, we should expect that as costs continue to be driven down and solar makes record contributions to electricity generation, investment will follow – and there will ultimately be more subsidy-free solar farms, albeit perhaps not in 2018.

Meanwhile, by promoting emerging technologies like remote island wind, the Government appears to be favouring diversification and that it has a range of resources available to meet consumer demand. Perhaps more prescient than the decision to exclude established renewables from the CfD auction is the subsequent confirmation in the budget that Pot 2 of CfDs will be the last commitment of public money to renewable energy before 2025.

In short, we should view the CGS as a step in the right direction, albeit one the Government should be elaborating on in its consultation response. Its publication, coupled with the advancement this year of the Industrial Strategy indicates ministers are committed to the clean growth agenda. The question is now how the aspirations set out in the CGS – including the development of demand response capacity for the grid, and improving the energy efficiency of commercial and residential premises – will be realised.

It’s a step in the right direction. But, inevitably, there’s much more work to do.

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