The climate crisis is one of the biggest challenges facing us today and businesses have a vital role in generating environmental efficiencies. While our motives to prioritise carbon reduction activities have been driven by our colleagues’ desire to do the right thing, there’s no doubt that there’s an increasing expectation on businesses to be able to demonstrate environmental credentials to current and potential customers.
In today's eco-conscious world, customers are – rightly so – increasingly concerned about the ecological footprint of the companies they engage with. They are more likely to remain loyal for businesses that operate sustainably. It’s not enough, however, to simply say the right things; businesses must demonstrate tangible progress and ambitious commitments around sustainability plans, as well as look beyond direct operations to support customers and supply chain to do the same.
Over the past three years we’ve worked hard to lower our emissions, reduce waste and support colleagues to make good environmental choices. To do this effectively, we began by taking the time to understand and calculate our carbon footprint before setting short and long-term targets. The Scottish Government set a target for the country to be net zero by 2045. However, we’ve set a far more challenging target to be net zero by 2030 – 15 years ahead of the Scottish Government target and 20 years ahead of the UK Government target.
Having made this commitment, we set short-term goals to keep us focused. In April 2021 we launched a pledge to reduce our carbon footprint by 20% over a 12-month period (against our 2018-19 baseline year to reflect pre-COVID levels), which we exceeded. A second pledge to reduce emissions by a further 20% in April 2022 saw us achieve a 50% reduction by April 2023.
Over the past three years we’ve worked hard to lower our emissions, reduce waste and support colleagues to make good environmental choices
To achieve these targets, which have been externally verified, we implemented measures to tackle our largest emission sources. While in some areas we focused on retaining the positive changes that had resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, in other areas we implemented proactive measures to achieve our reduction, including replacing AC units with energy efficient versions; replacing our fleet with low-emission vehicles; launching a climate conscious travel policy; and choosing a green tariff from our electricity providers.
To complement this, we also developed an educational awareness programme for our people, to support them in making the right environmental choices; and we’ve moved to a more energy efficient Head Office to help us achieve further environmental savings.
As a responsible water retailer, we’re committed to helping our customers and supply chain to use water efficiently to reduce costs and deliver environmental benefits. We’ve introduced initiatives including installing Automatic Meter Readers to help customers track their water use and identify leaks; providing businesses with free, water saving devices and resources; creating our online water efficiency shop; and working in partnership with Business in the Community to deliver a Climate Action for the business programme, providing expert-led workshops and 1-to-1 mentoring support to small to medium sized businesses looking to develop carbon reduction plans.
We’ve also been engaging with our supply chain to ensure we’re partnering with responsible suppliers. We’ve set clear environmental benchmarks, added environmental questions to our tender documents and are in the process of establishing a mentoring programme to support small businesses at the start of their responsible business journeys to adopt more environmentally friendly practices.
The challenge of tackling climate change, while daunting, gives us as businesses a real opportunity to drive positive change, both within and beyond our operations. It requires vision, dedication, and resilience but the rewards – both in terms of being part of the climate solution and in driving strong customer loyalty – are significant.