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New Brunswick Offers Unique Opportunities in Social Enterprise

Entrepreneurship and innovation are important elements in promoting job creation and economic prosperity. Social responsibility -- environmental conservation for example -- is also important to social well-being. These values -- entrepreneurship and social responsibility -- are not in conflict with each other, but rather mutually beneficial and complementary.

This is particularly the case in a smaller jurisdiction like New Brunswick. As a smaller jurisdiction which offers beautiful natural vistas, as well as smaller cities and towns that offer an alternative to larger cities like Toronto, environmental conservation is an essential component to our province's economic well being. Preserving our province's natural beauty enhances our economic potential in tourism, as well as making the province an attractive place to move to, especially for those who enjoy outdoor activities and being near natural surroundings.

Furthermore, preserving the character of our cities and towns through sustainable urban planning practices that curb sprawl - preserving farmlands and natural landscapes - and encouraging mixed-use downtowns, are essential to building on our province's economic strengths.

Downtowns and downtown like environments are becoming increasingly popular locations for residents -- including young professionals and entrepreneurs -- seeking an alternative to traditional suburban living, something written about by academics such as Richard Florida. Furthermore, downtown loft-style facilities are increasingly popular locations for start-up IT enterprises. Walkable mixed-use downtowns and town centres also serve as important cultural focal points, creating potential for arts and other local festivals that are draws for tourists.

On natural landscapes, research Elizabeth O'Brien, in a peer-reviewed journal article presenting the findings from interviews and focus groups conducted in Vermont, found that the state's forests and natural landscapes were a key attraction for people who moved there, with some even opting for lower wages to be able to enjoy more outdoor activities and be closer to nature.

In Vermont there is a strong policy emphasis on environmental conservation. The state's natural vistas and smaller cities and communities have been a draw for tourists and new residents -- including innovative entrepreneurs -- for decades. While Vermont is not perfect -- it faces pressures of young people leaving -- the state's unemployment rates have been consistently below those of the United States. New Brunswick has similar strengths that can be drawn on and promoted - where conservation and natural surroundings can be key economic draws.

As well, in all this, social enterprise has an important role to play. Vermont has been an attractive state to conservation-minded people, with strong support for local businesses, including local businesses -- emphasizing social responsibility and environmental conservation -- that have become successful multinational enterprises, Ben & Jerry's Icecream and Green Mountain Coffee being two key examples.

Green Mountain Coffee emphasizes social justice and environmental sustainability in its mission statement, with promotion of environmentally sustainable practices in its manufacturing process and 100% offset of greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, a minimum of five percent of pre-tax profits are allocated for social and environmental projects.

As well, the company emphasizes fair trade practices and promotes volunteerism among employees, all of which -- in addition to emphasis on environmentally responsible practices -- have built a strong brand based on social and environmental responsibility.

Promoting environmentally sustainable solutions, in and of itself, presents new opportunities in entrepreneurship and innovation. Thoughtful Dwellings Consulting and Design in Fredericton emphasizes energy efficient building practices. Thoughtful Dwellings collaborated on a project with Southern Exposure Construction Incorporated to build a house that exceeded Canadian standards of energy efficiency, the Naugler House which is the first "passive house" in New Brunswick, a concept imported from Germany where the latest technologies and environmentally friendly materials are used in home construction to radically reduce energy consumption.

While the costs to build a passive house are higher than a typical house, the reductions in energy consumption -- by up to 90% -- lead to long-run cost savings as well as being good for the planet. The passive house offers freshly circulated air that prevents growth of unhealthy mold and mildew as well as durable building materials that minimize repair and renovation needs. Furthermore, windows facing south make maximum use of natural heat from the sun.

This is a clear example of the pursuit of environmental sustainability offering new chances for innovative uses of technology, a great example of social entrepreneurship.

New Brunswick is a province that holds a lot of great potential, where environmental conservation and social enterprise are key elements in promoting economic prosperity and general well-being. This is a great potential that needs to be tapped into and unleashed. Social responsibility, environmental conservation, entrepreneurship and innovation are mutually beneficial, and New Brunswick - as a smaller jurisdiction - offers unique opportunities to be a leader in these areas.

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