22nd January 2020
Action on climate change – how can businesses play their part?!
With 2019 being dominated by Brexit and the decade closing with a General Election, it has been easy for us to lose sight of the longer-term issues facing communities and businesses across Scotland. One key issue which will affect all of us over the coming years is the ongoing climate emergency.
There has been much debate around climate change and the roles and responsibilities of various parties, and the UK and Scottish Governments have both set ambitious targets to reach net zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century. This will bring significant challenges as they try to decarbonise transportation, significantly reduce carbon emissions, develop a circular economy and change consumer behaviour.
These challenges are particularly apparent in remote and rural areas like the North Highlands where life already has challenges. Making a ‘greener’ business can be a challenge in a region like ours, where access to recycling services and obtaining the right materials and products can be costly. However, through strong partnership working our area also presents an ideal opportunity to create impactful and meaningful climate action initiatives, and the Chamber is working with agency partners on a range of issues around carbon literacy, single-use items, waste and sustainability.
As businesses, we have to accept that legislatures and policy makers will be driving us to reduce carbon emissions and more businesses need to think about the role they can play in addressing the issues. Many of our policies, procedures and practices are going to have to change as a result, not least because coming generations of customers place a premium on environmental issues and are happy to change loyalties to companies and brands willing to take a greener approach.
A simple and obvious place for many businesses to start looking at these issues is to address their use of single-use items, particularly those made of plastics. While many of us have made efforts in this area, it’s important to ensure that we’re not accidentally “greenwashing” the problem – that is, adopting solutions which look green but actually bring little or no benefit.
Many products which are branded as recyclable – cardboard coffee cups, for example – are not easily processed through normal recycling streams, and compostable alternatives can bring additional concerns around release of gases such as methane.
This is a complicated area, but it’s important for us to remember that our actions don’t have to result in perfection, just an improvement. The key thing to bear in mind is “Reduce – Reuse – Recycle”. Where we can, we should look to reduce our use of single-use items, then look to reuse items where we can, and finally look to replace items with recyclable alternatives.
These are complicated and difficult issues, and we know that many businesses across the North Highlands will want guidance and assistance as they look to take action. Wherever we can, the Chamber will be on hand to help and signpost businesses in the area to the right resources to help them make changes that not only meet statutory obligations, but which make real impacts both within their business and the community as a whole.