Over 120 students from 17 secondary schools across County Durham are embarking on a challenge to come up with business ideas that will protect the planet.

Future Business Magnates, now running for its 15th year, will see school teams of year 8 pupils working closely with local businesses to develop, create and present business ideas.

With many countries and local authorities, including Durham County Council, declaring a Climate Emergency and committing to reducing emissions, this year students are being asked to come up with a business idea that will help to save the planet or will tackle one of the problems caused by climate change.

At the launch students heard from the Environment Agency (EA), who are a partner in this year’s competition.  EA representatives gave an interesting introduction to the concept of the circular economy, to get the teams’ creativity flowing.

The students representing schools from across County Durham will undergo six individual challenges over the coming months, supported by dedicated business partners from successful Durham based organisations like Zumtobel Group, Honcho Markets, Wates Construction and Waterstons.

The programme will culminate in an awards ceremony in June 2020 hosted by BBC Radio Newcastle presenter Charlie Charlton.

This year’s competition was launched in November by Councillor Ossie Johnson, Vice Chairman of Durham County Council, and Business Durham at the Xcel Centre in Newton Aycliffe. Business Durham is the economic development arm of Durham County Council and runs the Future Business Magnates programme.   

Sarah Slaven, Operations Director at Business Durham, said: “This exciting competition aims to inspire young people and help develop the skills needed to start and develop a business.  

“Year after year it’s great to see so many positive outcomes for the students, the schools and the business partners. Students are introduced to possible career pathways and develop key communications skills, and businesses are given the opportunity to inspire young people whilst learning more about the world of education.”

Cllr Carl Marshall, Cabinet member for economic regeneration at Durham County Council, said: “In February, we declared a climate emergency and set the ambitious target of making all of County Durham carbon neutral by 2050.

“Developing clean industries and promoting a green economy are key to achieving this target and I am really looking forward to seeing what innovative business ideas the students come up with to tackle climate change. We all have a responsibility to protect our planet, and the Future Business Magnates Challenge aims to draw upon the passion so many young people across the world have already demonstrated towards this vital cause.”

Sarah Darling, Customer and Engagement Advisor for the Environment Agency, said: “It has been fantastic to contribute towards this year’s Future Business Magnates challenge, especially as the theme is ‘building a business to protect the planet’, with the opportunity to introduce information about the circular economy concept.

“We hope that we’ve encouraged the teams to look at ways to better use our planet’s vital resources by putting reduction, reuse and recycling of resources at the heart of their business concepts. This change in thinking, not only helps us to better protect our environment but it supports local growth to our economy for future generations.”

Chris Hind, head of business studies at St Leonard’s Catholic School. said: “It’s a great competition, I love it.  We see the confidence of the pupils develop over the course of the programme.  They gain many skills including communications, team work and presentation skills as well as all round business knowledge.  Importantly they also enjoy the programme and it keeps them interested over the year.”