The social and economic opportunities arising from this seismic transformation are immense. They will take us in all sorts of positive directions. And here in Scotland, new initiatives such as the non-profit venture GreenGrow.Club (GGC) show that the journey has already started.

This new venture, based in Forres, Morayshire and launched only last month, markets a range of sustainable products meeting the highest standards of people and planet care. Iain Findlay, its ‘Head of Sustainability Knowledge’, describes it as a kind of socially responsible “green Amazon”.

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It operates not just a marketplace for conscious consumers, featuring “for free” Scottish and UK based small independent eco-friendly businesses, but also as a community driven learning hub, while helping them to show-case their sustainability performance, with tools allowing eco-focused individuals and companies to learn from each other and share their insights.

The web site provides interactive models allowing users to calculate their carbon footprints and their sustainability ranking. At present, there are 20 eco-vendors selling their eco-friendly products on the site, ranging from food through to smoothies, baskets, cosmetics, handbags and even a geodesic dome.

The aim is to grow the online shop to the point where it has 500 Scottish vendors marketing through it by the time the COP26 climate change conference happens in Glasgow in November.

The Green Grow Club has grown out of the Aurora Sustainability Group, a multi-award-winning independent group of companies working to encourage understanding and moves towards an integrated and sustainable circular economy.

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“One of the things we did at Aurora was to prove circular economy in practice by growing gourmet mushrooms, which are the arch regenerators of the natural world”, Iain explains. “We started to grow them in coffee grounds to show that you can use waste products and turn them into something of higher value. It was really effective. Now we also produce a variety of food products and R&D biomaterials. now in cooperation with the Glasgow School of Art, Innovation School based at Altyre Estate, Forres.

He also refers to what he calls the protein gap that needs to be addressed. “At present, most of the world gets its protein from meat, dairy or, to some extent, fish.

“These things are environmentally incredibly destructive, emit massive amounts of greenhouse gases or waste products or are just running out. The industries behind them are huge polluters.

“However, we also have sources of plant based food. Combine mushrooms with certain grains, for instance, and you get a complete protein. It’s really healthy and if you eat properly you don’t need as much medical care. The positive repercussions go on and on.”

It is this ethos of imaginative sustainability that is driving GGC. Dr Isabella Guerrini de Claire, its Project Energiser Manager [CORRECT] says setting the new venture up was a “no brainer”.

She adds: “The Green Grow Club is something that we believe is necessary to boost green job creation, not just for those that are initiating their journey to sustainability but also for people who want to profitably transform a conventional business.

“We’ve been through a lot of challenges ourselves in terms of marketing and understanding how to sell online. So the GGC has become a marketplace featuring small independents that produce in a sustainable way but can’t easily reach their customer base.”

Many of these individuals, she adds, are one person operations suffering from economic challenges and a shortage of time. “Here in Scotland, mentoring climate innovation through the Climate-KIC EIT at ECCI - University of Edinburgh, we met many of these purpose-driven businesses that we can now feature.”

“We also think we can demonstrate that the new jobs that are being created in the wake of Covid-19 can involve healthy products that involve food and positive outputs for the environment. It’s a very exciting time.”

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Vendors working with GGC sign up to four ethical touchpoints, Isabella explains. “Firstly, they have to be single use plastic free, and that includes in their shipping methods.

“Secondly, they must be cruelty free - by this we don’t mean vegan, but cruelty must be banned in their production processes and in the supply chain. Of course, animals are a part of that, but so is the abuse of women and children in labour.

“The third ethic is to be fair, which includes fair trade and equality in the workplace. And the final one is to be kind...something Covid has reminded us of the importance of”. Recent surveys show that about 78% of those surveyed said companies could be doing more to clearly explain the environmental impacts of their products. But fewer consumers think high prices are the biggest barrier to buying items with environmental claims, with the number decreasing 4% points since last year, to 49%. However,more consumers said lack of access to these products in their local stores made them unable to buy them (Source: firm Kearney.)

At present, GGC does not charge its vendors for acting as a portal for their products or for sharing knowledge through its learning hub.

It also offers a precisely defined model of sustainability. “Of course, there are other websites out there selling eco-friendly products”, says Iain Findlay, but none of them that we are aware of have a definition of what sustainability actually means.

“Ask people in a boardroom and they can’t tell you. It’s the most important issue facing humanity right now and they don’t even understand the question.

“So we use a scientific framework specifically designed by the Swedish scientific, academic and business community 30 years ago to do this. It’s been peer reviewed and tried and tested - it’s very straightforward and completely rock solid.”

He believes that the GGC concept will continue to grow. “If people start buying the products, then more producers will want to come into the marketplace.

“We want to help people improve, innovate and design out all the things that are causing the trouble. The only future that exists is a green future, and we want to be part of that process of transformation.”

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