Scot helping business beat the net zero target

“We want business owners to see net zero as an opportunity for growth and change - and lose the connotation of ‘the world’s on fire’.”

Meet the man with the mission to help Scotland hit its net zero target five years ahead of the rest of the UK
Meet the man with the mission to help Scotland hit its net zero target five years ahead of the rest of the UK

Steven Kiakowski is a man with a mission. He wants businesses to fully embrace Scotland’s efforts to meet its net zero environmental target by 2045 (five years ahead of the rest of the UK) and he’s positive about the prospect of achieving that.

As Director of The Verdancy Group, Kiakowski believes that every future job is a green job, and he wants to ensure those words reflect reality and don’t just remain a hopeful mantra.

To that end, The Verdancy Group has delivered training to hundreds of business leaders in Scotland, called Transitioning at Pace to Net Zero.

The response, Kiakowski says, was hugely positive.

“It’s about influencing all attitudes and behaviours, not the technical skills needed to understand install how a solar panel or a wind farm works,” he explains. “It’s about understanding the programme, and the targets, and how your organisation can take the opportunity to grow and change.”

The intensive six-week training was targeted at senior leaders who could go back into their workplaces and raise climate awareness among employees

“We had managing directors from small businesses, alongside site managers, operations directors and procurement managers,” says Kiakowski. “We also had people within the education sector; it's been a really diverse range, including a number of tier one companies.”

The training course was delivered as part of the Scottish Government’s National Transition Training Fund, administered by Skills Development Scotland. It was targeted at six specific sectors: Construction; Manufacturing; Transport; Life & Chemical Science; Energy Transition; and Agriculture & land use.

Kiakowski says there was a great sense of participants wanting to ‘do their bit’ and be a leader in the change. Following the training, working groups have been set up to allow businesses further down the net zero path to help others who need more support.

“We’ve got large companies who have done a lot, very keen to help those not as far down the line,” he adds. “There’s been a great sense of cooperation, and of sharing ideas and messages. This is especially important in supply chains. Rather than just asking suppliers to make changes, larger organisations are looking how they can support them to do it.”

Kiakowski says within the broader cultural and awareness training, it’s vital to offer specific ideas and actions to take away.

For construction, the best-represented sector in the training, retrofitting old buildings to make them much more environmentally-friendly is a crucial focus.

“To achieve net zero within just over 20 years will require heavy change within our skilled trades,” says Kiakowski. “However, our workforce isn't yet prepared for that. So within the training, we have a real focus around retrofit, how you can become trained, and who can support you with that training.

“I have lots of friends who work in the trades. I often ask if they’ve done anything around critical retrofit techniques such as heat pump installations, and the answer is often no.

“I can absolutely understand it. These businesses are already really busy, they have had the challenges of Covid and now rising energy bills - but it's so critical that we make the changes.

“Legislation and policy is changing and businesses must change too. It’s not about hitting them with a stick, it’s getting them to see the business opportunity. Whether I'm speaking to a young person, or someone who’s been in industry for a long time, I want them to see net zero as an opportunity for growth and change.”

Another National Transition Training Fund project allowed anyone over 25 living and working in Scotland to complete a free course in Climate Emergency Training.

The training was aimed at individuals and organisations in the early stages of considering climate change impacts and planning for net zero. It covered the science of the climate emergency, responses to it and the risks, impacts, responsibilities and opportunities ahead.

Catherine Gee, Deputy Chief Executive for Keep Scotland Beautiful, which ran the training, says: “Everyone living and working in Scotland has a role to play in hitting our ambitious climate targets and our course offers a practical and immediate start on doing just that.

Participants will find the training empowers them to take practical action on climate change and develop skills and experience they can apply in the workplace, no matter what their role or what level of an organisation they work at.”

Jenny MacDonald, Sector Development Manager with Skills Development Scotland, said: “Working with individuals and organisations across the country to future-proof their skills and prepare for a low carbon Scotland is a vital part of SDS’s work as part of the Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan.

“Easily accessible courses like this, which provide support for businesses and staff to help tackle the impacts of climate change, are key to our move to net zero.”

· Skills Development Scotland is a sponsor of The Scotsman’s Green Skills conference, which takes place on Tuesday October 4th in Edinburgh. Book here: www.scotsmangreenskills.co.uk