Climate Change Legal Initiative – Leveraging Legal Expertise for a Sustainable Future

C2LI is a social enterprise committed to growing legal knowledge and strengthening expertise in the law to drive just and transformational climate action.
Scottish mountains

Introduction

The International Social Enterprise Observatory (ISEO) supported Professor Francesco Sindico, Dr. Kate McKenzie and Amelia Burnette with a wide range of support to form C2LI – the Climate Change Legal Initiative – the world’s first social enterprise committed to growing legal knowledge and strengthening expertise in the law to drive just and transformational climate action.

Based in Scotland, C2LI leverages court case insights across 50+ countries spanning everything from constitutions to human rights statutes and corporate law. By bridging complex transparency gaps, the initiative equips users worldwide with strategic intelligence to advance accountability towards emissions reductions goals.

A spin-out from the University of Strathclyde, C2LI serves to urgently inform and empower the worldwide climate policy ecosystem including activists, judiciaries and corporations. Offerings encompass customised geographic briefings, skills-building programmes and frontline perspectives – enabling collaborative action on equitably addressing root causes while minimising negative impacts.

As litigation increasingly forces climate accountability, C2LI stands poised through ISEO’s support to serve as a vital strategic resource worldwide for enabling whole-of-society transition collaborations. The coming years promise immense potential for initiatives leveraging legal empowerment to accelerate progress towards a sustainable, equitable future.

The Problem

When C2LI first came together, it became clear quite quickly that for them to fulfil their mission, they would need extensive support in starting up and operating as a social enterprise.

As a group of academics with a powerful idea, the ins-and-outs of business and where to begin were questions not easily answered. Formed as spin-out from the University of Strathclyde, C2LI needed assistance in developing every aspect of their business, from devising a business plan, to defining their legal structure, acquiring funding from the university and other sources, as well as guidance on how to operate in multiple international markets.

The Solution

To progress the vision of the three founders, the delivery partners – CEIS, The Challenges Group and Morton Fraser MacRoberts (MFMac) – brought together the resources of both the ISEO programme and the Social Impact Spin-Out (SISO) programme (which supports social enterprise spin-outs from university) to provide long-standing, bespoke business support over a three-year period to help them achieve their goals.

With advice from MFMac, C2LI was constituted as a Community Interest Company (C.I.C.) limited by guarantee, meaning that is fully asset-locked, which ensures that profits or assets are not distributed outside of the company. Instead, all profits are re-invested back into supporting the company’s social and environmental vision.

Critically, we helped C2LI with access to important legal advice for operating outside of Scotland, as well as access to administrative services provided by The Ventures Lab from Challenges Group, to consciously foster productivity. The Ventures Lab was also able to provide C2LI with access to a significant patient capital investment to provide it with the working capital required to hire Dr Kate McKenzie as its first CEO and provide it with the resources and support necessary to take C2LI to the marketplace.

The Outcome

By embedding robust governance guardrails and helping them to achieve funding where possible, ISEO empowered the C2LI founders to incorporate as a CIC – becoming the University of Strathclyde’s first ever social enterprise spin-out – and secure the growth funding it needed through The Venture Lab programme. Just months after launch C2LI are now well on their way to progressing their vision and expanding into new territories worldwide.

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