SMEs playing catch-up over net zero goals - Fraser Sime

The CBI recently published its Seize the Moment initiative which called on businesses to act now to unlock £700bn in commercial growth opportunities by 2030. Alongside calls for greater innovation and the improvement of equality and inclusion, the CBI also wants firms to prioritise decarbonisation. Each are designed to help in the push for net zero and to boost low-carbon jobs and green exports.

Fraser Sime, regional director for Scotland at Bank of Scotland, which is part of Lloyds Banking Group.

Scotland is renowned for its green credentials and our renewables industry is recognised globally. It was reported in March that renewables met 97% of the country’s electricity demand in 2020. But it is not only our thriving renewables sector that is leading the drive for a more sustainable Scotland. Businesses across the country in sectors ranging from agriculture to space travel are all striving to decarbonise.

With COP26 coming to Glasgow in a matter of month, all eyes are set on Scotland so it’s hugely important for firms to keep sustainability at the top of the agenda. If we work together, we can help as the country head towards its Net Zero goal.

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Embracing sustainability

The findings of our most recent Sustainability Barometer revealed that that more than half (56%) of Scottish SMEs said that becoming more environmentally sustainable was important to their business. More than two thirds (68%) had made changes to become more environmentally sustainable in 2020.

However, recent research we did into SMEs and their views of being Net Zero found that 40% of SMEs across the UK are unsure of the benefits. Furthermore, almost half (47%) of small businesses (10-19 employees) currently have no commitment, nor any current plans to commit, to Net Zero– compared to just 5% of the largest SMEs.

While Scottish firms are clearly making positive progress towards cutting their carbon footprint, its evident more can be done to reinforce the benefits and help them embrace sustainable transformations.

Supporting Scottish SMEs

At Bank of Scotland, we work with businesses across the country to help them pursue new clean growth opportunities and transition to sustainable business models and operations.

To ensure our team provide the best advice to maximising these opportunities, more than 60 of our colleagues have recently completed extensive training via the Cambridge Institute to further their knowledge on sustainable ways of working. From experience, we know that while businesses may be keen to adopt more sustainable practices, many are unfamiliar with the support available to them. This is an issue we are keen to overcome, as there are numerous tools available to businesses to help them drive sustainable transformations.

For example, our Clean Growth Finance Initiative (CGFI) helps businesses access discounted lending to help make operations more sustainable. This can help with the introduction of a host of green measures including installing solar panels for SMEs to acquiring electric vehicles for company fleets for much larger companies.

One example of a business excelling because of greener growth is Cumbernauld-based McKernan Homes. This firm secured a seven-figure CGFI loan from Bank of Scotland allowing it to develop a range of new eco-friendly properties in Dennistoun, East Glasgow. The new properties feature solar panels on the roof, weather compensators on the boilers, and electric charging points in the car park to help families live sustainably.

As we push to cut the emissions of firms we finance by 50% by 2030, we also offer access to a Green Buildings Tool to help businesses calculate the estimated outcomes of potential investments to make their property and operations more sustainable and energy efficient.

Through utilising support like this, businesses in Scotland can continue to make their operations more environmentally sustainable while driving towards a greener recovery and help establish the foundations for future growth.

Fraser Sime, regional director at Bank of Scotland, believes championing sustainability will be key to the country’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

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