How is one of Scotland largest employers rising to the challenge of net zero?

It is one of Scotland’s largest employers with over 3,600 employees on its books and services 2.46 million households across the country while its operation supplies 1.34 billion litres of drinking water each day.

It is one of Scotland’s largest employers with over 3,600 employees on its books and services 2.46 million households across the country while its operation supplies 1.34 billion litres of drinking water each day.

We spoke to Gordon Reid, general manager zero emissions at Scottish Water, in our Sustainable Scotland podcast about his organisation’s journey to net zero so far.

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The podcast also heard from David Reay who is the executive director at the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute at the University of Edinburgh about how best to effect change within organisations.

Picture: Scottish Water
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Gordon said: “We are already seeing the impact of climate change on rainfall patterns which can lead to greater risk of drought but also intense rainfall which can lead to flooding.

“We developed a 25 year strategy for the business where delivering net zero emissions is one of our three key ambitions.

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“We are applying United Nations guidelines on reaching net zero and are working to decarbonise our activities as much as possible then sustainably sequestering those emissions that we cannot reduce”

Scottish Water has reduced its emissions by 45% since it embarked on its drive towards net zero.

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The role of general manager zero emissions, carried out by Gordon, was created in response to the declaration of a climate emergency by the Scottish Government in 2019.

An expert panel, which David Reay sits on, was set up to guide its journey towards net zero emissions and is made up of expert academics and representatives from other utility companies and across the public sector.

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A Carbon Academy has been established to collaborate with Scottish Water suppliers to act as a “learning hub” and a place where companies can share best practices.

It is also exploring reducing investment emissions and carrying out research into how to reduce the environmental impact of its own water treatment processes.

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A route map was published last year that laid out the steps it would take as a company to reach net zero emissions.

Gordon said: “At the heart of our route map is to become more energy efficient.

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“We are also looking to use lower carbon energy products across our activities including how we heat our offices and fuel our fleet.

“We want to embrace low carbon construction with our supply chain partners and will also look to store away emissions that cannot be avoided.

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“We recognise that we must engage our staff on this journey.”

David Reay said that companies and organisations pivoting towards net zero had to have a strategy embedded at each level of its organisation.

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He said: “Getting to net zero is going to involve every part of our economy taking action.

“For businesses or organisations, it can’t just be a sideline element that they tick off at the end of the financial year.

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“It has to be mainstream and throughout everything that they do and that needs leadership from the top and engagement throughout the whole organisation.”

You can subscribe to the Sustainable Scotland podcast on Anchor FM or wherever you get your podcast from.