UNEP’s Six-Sector Solution: the massive, untapped potential of social economy

Author: Reine Cernero 

Unsustainable food production and distribution, waste management, social inclusion, employment and poverty crises,… It is no secret the world is facing numerous ecological, social, and financial challenges, calling for change and important paradigm shifts. Climate change in particular, combines both ecological and social challenges.

The COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, brought together the world leaders who have the power – and responsibility – to catalyse this change. The COP26 shed light on the need of global and collective action and the importance of respecting ambitious objectives in emissions reductions.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has developed a Six-Sector Solution to the climate crisis. It is a roadmap to reduce emissions in line with the 2016 Paris Agreement, across six specific sectors: Energy, Industry, Agriculture and Food, Forests and Land Use, Transport, Buildings and Cities.

Social economy can be – and should be – a powerful component in addressing ecological and social challenges. Looking closer, social economy finds itself in every single sector of the Six-Sector Solution. In that sense, social economy can, and must be able to directly contribute to the implementation of this Six-Sector Solution.

Because examples always speak louder than theories, below, we will show you incredible organisations or initiatives within each sector. Since there are literally millions of enterprises or organisations which are part of the social economy – 2.8 million in the EU to be exact (European Economic and Social Committee, 2017), we will focus mainly on the finalists of the first edition of the European Social Economy Awards, which was organised by Social Economy Europe last October in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

You can listen to a Podcast here of the three winners, one representing social needs, another the energy transition and the third digitalisation and skills!

Disclaimer: The figure bellow presents a series of example and do not provide exhaustive lists of social economy initiatives within each sector. Discover more on some of these organisations or initiatives in our piece of news about the finalists of the European Social Economy Awards 2021.

Social economy initiatives, such as co-operatives or mutuals, perfectly demonstrate how lasting change can rise from strong collective action. The social economy can indeed be a powerful tool in achieving change. From circular economy to strong inclusion or solidarity policies, social economy initiatives show that economic models with positive social, economic and ecological impacts is possible, and can be successful.

Therefore, the social economy not only can, but should and will, be part of the solutions for the sustainable and fair transition, leading to a healthier environment, leaving no-one behind.

Author: Reine Cernero

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