Ambitious green initiative capitalises on the buzz of COP26 to inspire Scottish business stars of the future


An ambitious partnership between land conservation firm Wildland Limited and Young Enterprise Scotland aims to engage pupils with green entrepreneurialism and inspire them to come up with new business ideas 

AS Scotland prepares for COP26, Young Enterprise Scotland (YES) has joined forces with Wildland Limited to take up the challenge of ensuring the climate conference leaves a legacy of innovation and cultural change for young Scots. 

With a £30k donation from the Scottish tourism and conservation business founded by Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen – Scotland’s biggest landowner –YES is launching the Circular Community Challenge for primary schools in the Highland local authority area for the next school year. 

The interactive challenge calls upon young students to create a sustainable product or service that meets a local need and is designed to provide pupils with enterprise skills, from team working to communication, as well as greater confidence in their own creativity. 

It is an investment in the talents of the young people whose futures are most at stake in November’s conference discussions. Martin Valenti, head of climate enterprise and COP 26 champion at Scottish Enterprise, calls these young people the pioneers and “solutioneers” needed to build the green economy.

Martin Valenti, head of climate enterprise and COP 26 champion at Scottish Enterprise

Mr Valenti said, “Young people across the globe and in Scotland are playing an important role in bringing the issues of climate change to the fore. With the eyes of the world on Glasgow and Scotland at COP 26 it’s even more important that we now turn that activism into actionism and help build the skills and enterprising mindset for solving some of these issues. 

“If we adopt an optimistic, motivated, and entrepreneurial approach to turn the climate emergency into our climate opportunity then we will need young people to understand and drive that approach.

“The critical role of young people supported through YES and its partners is exactly the right thing to do so I am highly optimistic about the future.  The time is now to stop tinkering around the edges looking at incremental improvements and instead put our green future into the hands of Scotland’s young solutioneers.”

YES added learning about the circular economy to its list of enterprise programmes two years ago. Over that period, the feedback from both primary and secondary schools has been that it provided the perfect opportunity for students to easily link their learning to the wider world.

The real-life context was vital in grabbing and maintaining the interest of children of all ages. 

For Geoff Leask, YES CEO, it also became clear that the earlier the enterprise journey started the better the longer-term outcome from a learning perspective, as well as for the upward influencing of parents from the children participating.

Welcoming the partnership with Wildland Limited he said, “Rural communities have always been naturally entrepreneurial; a place where a portfolio career lifestyle has been the norm for many years. The partnership with Wildland gives us the opportunity to deliver our Circular Community Challenge to local primary schools where we would not normally work, helping us achieve our ambition of enterprise for all. 

“Through this new initiative we want young students to practise all their skills for life and work – problem solving, resilience, teamwork, creativity and communicating effectively – and build on their natural creativity and enthusiasm.”

The opportunity to inspire the entrepreneurial thinking that nurtures and protects rural communities as vibrant places to live and work is at the heart of Wildland’s involvement. With a 200-year vision for landscape-scale conservation in the Scottish Highlands, it recognises the importance of sustainable and thriving local communities to the realisation of that ambition.

As well as supporting Young Enterprise Scotland, the organisation is also funding projects run by The Prince’s Trust in the Highlands, Islands and north east of Scotland.

Tim Kirkwood is the CEO of Wildland. Commenting on what he hopes the Circular Community Challenge will achieve, he said: “To make a difference we all have to be invested. There needs to be a cultural and behavioural change – which takes time. Young people can influence their family units and the Challenge will help instil the values and thoughts in young people which will build that culture as they grow into adulthood.”

Recognising the importance of COP 26 in Scotland, he added: “To be at the centre of the world stage in such an important event shows that Scotland and the UK cares and will play its part.

“Anything that can improve an underlying understanding in young people of the issues at stake – and how we as individuals bear responsibility to each other and all forms of life on our fragile planet, has got to be a good thing. COP 26 presents a unique opportunity to bring the core issues of climate change and the environment to the front and centre of children’s attention and enable the development of skills for future careers.

Geoff concludes, “The creativity of young people knows no boundaries and I expect that we will see some amazing projects.”

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