Sustainable development policies and green policies are throwing up tremendous opportunities for Scottish business, writes Mairi Mallon
BUSINESSES in Scotland are waking up to the fact that green practices are not only good for the environment but good for the bottom line. The public is becoming more and more conscious of what it happening to their planet – and want the companies that serve them to be seen to be doing more.
“Attitudes have changed in Scotland over the years,” says Donald MacBrayne, waste services manager at Scottish Water, which has recently opened a huge composting site at Cumbernauld.
“Companies have corporate social responsibility targets and want to be seen as companies that recycle. Landfill tax is going up every year as well, so there is a financial aspect to more companies taking recycling seriously.”
MacBrayne says that, traditionally, Scotland had used landfill to fill in the holes left by its mining past and had been seen as bad at recycling. Only 8% of its waste was recycled but that figure is now up to 25%.
Scotland has an abundance of wind and energy companies have been looking to harness this natural resource for years. Finally it appears to be f inancially viable for businesses to take on this renewable energy.
At Proven Energy, a wind turbine and solar energy company, adviser Peter Kindt has been working to f ind a way to get Scottish businesses to buy their own wind turbines which can generate enough energy to power their company. Called “wind crofting”, for between £3,000 and £16,000, a company can buy a wind turbine which is placed on a farmer’s land and energy generated is used to power the business.
“The lifespan of the turbines is about 30 years and we expect payback in 12, so that means that after that, it is all profit,” says Kindt.
The company hopes to attract small, medium and large businesses to the scheme, and Proven has even been talking to BT about supplying its energy needs.
“Scotland has a real opportunity to harness wind energy through existing and developing technologies”, says Alan Baker, chief executive of Airtricity Scotland, another wind turbine company. “We have a plentiful supply of wind and it is free.
Airtricity is developing and operating wind farms in Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales and in Canada and the United States.
It is involved in building a European “Supergrid” to carry energy generated by wind turbines to suppliers and deliver electricity around Europe. The first phase is a 10GW wind energy foundation project in the North Sea between UK, Germany and the Netherlands.
Hugh Raven, director of the Soil Association Scotland agrees that business in Scotland is taking on board more environmentally friendly measures – and looking for new ways to be greener. “It is good from a health point of view, it is good from a social point of view and it is good from the financial side. This kind of multiple benefit is what we call sustainable development.”
As the certifiers of organic food, the Soil Association is in touch with farms up which are seeing the benef its of changing their production ways for financial reasons.
“There is a shortage of organic produce and part of what we do act in an advisory role to help develop the organic food supply chain,” says Raven.
He said that in Scotland most of the farming was in livestock where methods of sustainable development were more advanced, but lagged behind in the use of arable land and in f ru it and vegetable production and had black spots for packaging and distribution.
“We have been going through a period of very rapid growth (in organic food supply), but we are behind in Scotland. We still have a way to go, but we are getting there.”