Helping businesses look to a greener future
Clare Richardson, area director, SME banking, Bank of Scotland

Clare Richardson, area director, SME banking, Bank of Scotland

After one of Scotland’s hottest summers on record, is this the wake-up call we need to face up to our responsibilities in tackling climate change?

The chair of the UK’s Climate Change Committee, Lord Deben, recently spoke out claiming that there is mounting evidence of alarming environmental trends, from melting polar ice to record heatwaves and rising sea levels. He called on politicians to act now and “make the connections” between these events and the human impact on the environment. He added that action needs to be taken to address the challenges of a rapidly warming planet.

Scotland has a global reputation as a climate change leader. The Scottish Government’s Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 provides a statutory long-term approach, demonstrating a commitment to the fight against climate change. Strong progress is being made – Scotland met the 2015 target to reduce emissions by 41% and is on course to hit an interim 2020 target of at least a 42% reduction.

The Climate Change Bill, which is currently under consultation, sets out ambitious proposals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 90% by 2050. With environmental degradation at the forefront of social and political agendas, it is the responsibility of businesses across Scotland to ensure they’re part of a greener future.

Against this backdrop, for businesses looking to invest in a lower carbon economy, Bank of Scotland recently launched a £2bn Clean Growth Finance Initiative (CGFI) which aims to deliver the most inclusive UK green funding in the market. We are working with businesses of all sizes to give them the financial support and insights they need to help reduce their environmental impact and boost productivity. Our clients are leading the way with improvements to production processes, heating, transport and even large-scale renewable energy infrastructure.
We’ve been working closely with key sectors across Scotland, including housing, food and drink and manufacturing, to help them with solutions to improve their industries’ approaches to the environment and sustainability.

For example, social housing refurbishments often require large scale retrofitting. Making simple adjustments such as using low-energy systems, low-carbon lighting and energy-efficient insulation can help reduce energy waste, improve the building’s energy rating and ultimately lower its carbon footprint. The link for our clients between investment in environmentally focussed projects and commercial returns is now more evident than ever.

Transport also has a big part to play in helping firms become more sustainable. Scotland’s food and drink businesses, which employ 25% of the Scottish manufacturing workforce, rely on an extensive logistics network to deliver fresh produce, often daily. Investing now in low carbon vehicles, such as hybrid or electric cars and lorries, to transport goods will save a business money in the long-run as a result of lower taxation and fuel expenditure and help to reduce pollution. Introducing robust recycling measures will also help reduce waste.

In addition to the CGFI, Bank of Scotland has other measures to help drive business efficiencies. Helping firms stay ahead of the market is vital to continued success, and a big part of our commitment to helping Scotland prosper.

Our recent Working Capital Index report found Scottish businesses have £32.2bn tied up in excess working capital. This is money that, if managed more effectively, could be released into cash and used to invest in growth and sustainable measures.

Scotland is a leader in green energy. Investment is key to maintaining this leadership position and will help make sectors such as manufacturing much greener. Firms should act now and review their sustainability initiatives to move forward into a cleaner, greener future.