Gillian Bruce: Drive to go green is good for business

Our environment provides everything we need to survive and thrive: raw materials, energy, and processes to disperse and break down waste. But the societies and businesses that will succeed in the 21st century will be those which have adapted to use less energy, less raw material and less water, produce less waste and emit less carbon.

Sustainable transport can help Scotland meet environmental targets. Picture: Andrew O'Brien.
Sustainable transport can help Scotland meet environmental targets. Picture: Andrew O'Brien.

Many businesses do just that – their efforts should be recognised. As Chair of VIBES – the Scottish Environment Business Awards – I am determined to acknowledge Scottish businesses which ­champion sustainability and create economic success through environmental best practice.

Just as VIBES is a partnership between Scottish Government and a range of public bodies, so achieving lasting success through more sustainable practice is a partnership – between the public ­sector, businesses, communities and the wider public. We all share the responsibility. We all have a part to play in protecting our environment and helping to create a sustainable society and economy.

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One of the most pressing challenges is how to make transport more sustainable.

Transport and freedom of movement were among the greatest changes of the last century, but at a cost. Whether it’s the transport of goods by road, rail, air or ship, travel to global holiday destinations, or everyday commuting, sustainable transport has become a challenge and an opportunity.

VIBES acknowledges this through a Transport Award, recognising businesses which have achieved significant reductions in their environmental footprint. It might be smarter transport logistics, investment in low-emission technologies, supporting employees in car sharing, using public transport, or encouraging active travel, with its associated health benefits. An Aberdeen firm, for example, saved £285,000 and 191 tonnes of carbon in just 12 months, through changes to transportation. Good environmental practice is good business practice. I’ve yet to come across a business uninterested in cutting costs.

Sustainable transport is where Scotland can make real progress. The Scottish Government has ­published its commitment to achieving almost complete decarbonisation of road transport by 2050, its ambition for nearly all new car sales to be near zero emissions by 2040, and for half of all fossil-fuelled vehicles to be phased out of urban environments by 2030.

It’s a tall order, but VIBES partners, the Energy Savings Trust and Transport Scotland are taking strides to help make this commitment a reality. Benefits include better air quality, improved public health, cost savings, reduced noise pollution, safer and more pleasant urban environments, and a contribution to reducing the impacts of climate change.

For those engaged in delivering solutions, VIBES wants to recognise and celebrate achievements. But the wider opportunities in developing technologies, services and systems which underpin more sustainable transport are there to be taken, and the benefits will be ours to reap.

Gillian Bruce is chair of VIBES, the Scottish Environment Business Awards.