Higher Education Funding Council for England

Sustainable social enterprise at the University of Gloucestershire Students' Union

Wednesday 13-11-2013 - 22:29
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The Cheltenham Chilli Company has been combining sustainability with social enterprise for over a year. Using reclaimed space on campus to grow organic produce, they’ve created their own commercially viable, student-led chilli jam business – producing over 400 jars this term alone.

With Students’ Green Fund, they’re transforming their operations and reaching far more people – widening student engagement, diversifying their range by producing their own honey, and making even more links with the local community.

“The Cheltenham Chilli Company is designed to teach students, staff and our community the value of local food”, says Tom Newman, opportunities manager at the University of Gloucestershire Students’ Union. “We want to teach students how to grow their own produce, make new products with it, sell those products and develop their employability skills through enterprise”

At the University of Gloucester Students’ Union, Students’ Green Fund is helping to engage a far greater number of students with sustainability, and provides them with a breadth of employability skills which go far beyond food production.

“We have had students look at market research, branding, product development, sales and marketing strategies, networking, pitching to buyers and looking at strategy”, Tom told us. And in picking up these skills, students are learning about the essential links between successful enterprise and social responsibility – skills which will better equip them as they graduate into an emerging low-carbon economy.

“It offers you an opportunity to get involved with something outside your normal area of study”, says IT student James Williams. “It helps to develop other skills and gain experiences which you might not have had the chance to otherwise”

From ensuring that the compost is sourced in an environmentally responsible way, to regenerating disused areas of campus, to rescuing usable equipment from landfill – this project embeds sustainability into a successful business model, and helps students to become more aware of the global impact of their food choices.

“A disconnection from the work that goes into creating the food we eat is an issue this project can tackle” James tells us. “It’s making people more conscious of the difficulties of food production, and to be more mindful when buying and using food”

This year, Students’ Green Fund is supporting students in producing their own honey. “The honey project is not just allowing students to study bees” Tom tells us. “It’s increasing their commercial awareness, and increasing biodiversity on our campuses”

“I am really keen for this project to engage our local community, so we hope to bring school children on site to study the bees too. Hopefully this will get young people thinking about the important roles bees play in our ecosystem, and our students will gain really good experiences by building and delivering workshops”

Going beyond building partnerships with local retailers, the community links created by the University of Gloucestershire Students’ Union also embeds sustainable development into local primary schools and FE institutions. Reconnecting students with sustainable food production, the Cheltenham Chilli Company provides skills in areas ranging from growing to marketing – engaging students from a wide breadth of academic disciplines.

“Students’ Green Fund has been transformational for this union”, Tom concluded. “This is allowing our students to leave university with a really varied and positive experience of sustainability”

“Whether it is starting their own social enterprise, learning about bees, planting apple trees, greening local businesses or learning how to grow a scotch bonnet chilli, our students’ experience at the University of Gloucestershire has become more diverse, and I hope this will allow them to make a more positive impact on society when they leave”



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