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Muscular localism

  • by JW

“The power of local economies.”

“Rural communities could actually have the ability to make real livelihoods.” [Sir Tim Smit]


The Blue Earth Summit returns to Bristol for a third year next month

A blue earth event will return to Bristol for the third year running, bringing together business leaders, investors, pioneers and more to inspire environmentally-conscious business practices. Blue Earth Summit has invited purpose-led businesses to apply for the Blue Earth 100, a list of the most innovative and impactful companies in the UK. A shortlist of 30 companies from the #BE100 list will be invited to pitch live to a room of global impact investors at the Blue Earth Summit in Bristol taking place from October 11-13.

Last year it saw more than 5,000 attendees descend… In 2022 more than 500 businesses applied to pitch at the summit, where over £6m in investment was raised. Finalists who have pitched live and received investment included plastic-free chewing gum Nuud, sustainable period care products company DAME, and sustainable children’s clothes company Bundlee.

Sir Tim Smit, co-founder of the Eden Project, will be leading a talk at the event, which brings together business leaders, investors, pioneers and more to inspire environmentally-conscious business practices. And Business Live carries a full interview with him today on the power of local economies:

The Eden Project founder explained how talks should be centred around if businesses can be capitalist with a moral compass. Mr Smit said the ideal is to “create wealth by imagining growth out of what isn’t waste as opposed to consuming more”.

Sir Tim Smit KBE, co-founder Eden Project (Image: Ben Foster)

Mr Smit has coined the phrase ‘muscular localism’ to express his solution. He explained that you can only have what you have in a major city only if it’s being made locally and is being owned by the people who are your neighbours. He used the example of Volvo, who are big sponsors of Eden Project to express this. Mr Smit understands that in 15 years, the car manufacturer expects to not have a supply chain as “everything will be done by 3D printing”.

“There’s nothing you can’t grow wherever you live. And when you see it like that you realise you can start creating communities. All over the country rural communities could actually have the ability to make real livelihoods and spread those livelihoods.” This ability to take the pressures off the cities and create healthier lives for people locally is what the Eden founder means by ‘muscular localism’. Cornwall, where Eden Project is based, has the highest success rate of startup businesses lasting longer than three years, anywhere in Britain.

Here’s more from Sir Tim from 2021, where he discussed how projects like Eden can help make communities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable:

At Eden we’re digging up our water and sewerage systems to create a circular system onsite, we’re going to grow 40% of our fruit and vegetables on site each year, and we’re going to analyse every square metre of our farmlands and car parks so that we know exactly what’s going on. We’re going to see a future in which we have a very muscular localism; collaborative farms and food for each locality; means of production to be economically smarter, electric transport and renewable energy. The revolution is enormous. People are going to be working in industries they don’t even know, pure science will give way to a holistic view to understanding the planet in systems.’

Others have been talking about ‘muscular localism’. For example, last year an important lecture within the planning community declared that ‘Muscular localism’ of neighbourhood plans needs reorienting – and that ‘planning needs communities as much as communities need planning’.

Although a decade ago, there was much scepticism about the government’s new agenda on ‘localism’, with detractors accusing the communities minister of coining the double-speak phrase for the removal of local power: “muscular localism”.

But perhaps the initiative and impetus lies with Sir Tim, who has a very dynamic and promising vision, from the suggestion that localism is the solution to food miles to the larger picture, including “Citizenship, Consumerism and Visions of the Future”.