Help build a repair economy in Scotland – a radical new approach to business with climate justice at its heart

Join us: we are recruiting for a Commercial and Operations Director with extensive commercial experience and a commitment to values of social enterprise and climate justice.

Climate justice gets to the heart of the issue of how climate and human rights intersect by reminding us that it’s the people who consume the least resources who are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change. Environmental refugees are a symptom of the problem; displaced by drought, flood or sea level rises, those who live most lightly on the land are then doubly punished when they are vilified as ‘economic migrants’ for trying to build their lives elsewhere. The rag-pickers who make a precarious livelihood on waste dumps in Manila, Mumbai and Sao Paulo are seen as marginal outcasts, but they are the ones literally cleaning up the ecosystem at the risk of their own health.

But climate justice is not just something affecting other countries, we can see it in Scotland too. It’s always more deprived communities that need to fight pollution, landfill and incineration plant in their neighbourhoods. Like Coatbridge in North Lanarkshire – where a school was built on a former landfill site with toxic materials and incidents of serious illness were found as well as blue water coming out of taps, or Mossmorran in Fife, where the chemical plant regularly burns of excess gas in a process known as ‘flaring’ – just like plants in Nigeria. These are poorer communities that bear the brunt of a system where we pollute in order to profit and over consume.

Building a new economy means both taking a new perspective and doing things differently. With a new lens, we erase the false dichotomy between ‘jobs’ and the ‘environment’ and relocate power with people. It’s local communities who know what they need in their own areas, who can map their own lives, and who can voice what facilities they need. As Kevin Bales said, it’s the indigenous voices we need to listen to, the ones who are saying they want their forests back – who’ve heard from their grandmothers about how the trees provide cloth and food and make the temperature cooler.

Remade Network is on a mission to help this happen with our work setting up community reuse and repair hubs across Scotland and further afield. “For too long, people have been blamed for not reusing or repairing enough when the facilities don’t exist for them to behave differently”, is the rallying cry of Ann Link, scientist and ex-Director at Women’s Environmental Network, who initiated the UK’s Waste Minimisation Bill in 1998. Ann, my former boss and mentor, is an inspiring figure and a pioneer in calling for local authorities to go beyond recycling. After all, we can recycle more and more without the overall volume of waste decreasing. So, we need to think differently and design waste out from the outset instead.

Teaching people to fix things helps build a new mentality – one about keeping household goods for longer, thinking about how they are made and disposed of, and building confidence, new skills and resilience in the communities that can access repair services. And crucially, repair creates 10 times as many jobs as recycling (Institute for Local Self-Reliance).

The privilege of working with different communities means understanding what is unique about each place: this is not a one size fits all approach, it’s about adapting a set of principles and learning to work collaboratively. Each centre will work with and welcome a mix of people, have multiple income streams, and value and celebrate ecological diversity. We need to remain clear-sighted about our ultimate objectives – tackling climate change and inequality. This means ensuring that new remakeries aren’t primarily commercial brands leading to gentrification of areas but are true collaborations that listen and support the people who need their services that give people agency and bring people together to make places more liveable.

In doing this we need to get away from the idea that the circular economy is just about efficiency gains. After all, if a business is ‘more circular’ then it is an oblong – not a new design. We need to redesign the activities that we undertake and the businesses that we create from the outset. This is exactly the new kind of thinking that groups like Extinction Rebellion are calling for.

As the demand for this work grows, we’re growing our friendly team. A new Commercial and Operations Director is a senior appointment – someone who can respond to these opportunities and help develop our network of new projects in Scotland. Someone who can speak the language of business and holds the values of social enterprise close to their heart. Deadline for applications 5PM GMT Sunday 27th October 2019.