Sustainable business must be part of any serious post-pandemic strategy - Colin Lamb

COP26 has happened, it’s no longer on the horizon, it’s no longer round the corner, we’re no longer on the eve of it, and finally it’s time for Scotland’s business sector to do its bit to help the nation hit net zero by the Scottish Government’s 2045 target date.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is still important in reaching net zero. (Picture: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is still important in reaching net zero. (Picture: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The reality is, however, that while some are actively engaged, for the vast majority of Scottish firms, becoming a sustainable business is nowhere near the top of the agenda – if it’s even on it at all.We work with businesses across Scotland and the UK every day, and too many leaders simply aren’t prioritising sustainability because they either don’t understand it, don’t see it as important, or they don’t believe they have the time or resources to address it.For most, of course, recovery from the pandemic is still number one on the agenda – and that’s understandable – but becoming a sustainable business must be part of any serious post-pandemic strategy.

There are good transformation initiatives in play across the country – such as the Scottish Business Climate Collaboration or Glasgow Chamber of Commerce’s Circular Glasgow plan – but the number of businesses actively involved nationwide is miniscule in comparison to what’s required if we are to make a serious attempt at fulfilling our climate change promises.Businesses in Scotland – and the UK – are in urgent need of a green awakening, or it will be too late.If the past 18 months has taught us anything, it’s how quickly and drastically we can change the way we think, work, behave and live differently if we choose to – and I cannot overemphasise the opportunity that exists to make real and tangible change in businesses across the country.Leaders must take action now on becoming truly sustainable – both in terms of their actions, their cultures, their practices and their people, but it doesn’t all have to happen at once, and they don’t need huge resources to achieve it.Sustainability isn’t simply a tick box exercise, a token gesture in public contracting or a buzzword used for external publicity and reputation. Sustainability is much more than this, and should run deeper within your organisational DNA. Employees now expect their jobs to bring a sense of purpose to their lives and for those employers who don’t encourage this then they need to prepare to lose talent to others.

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It is not all about being eco-focused, however – which is the real elephant in the room. It is also about making a genuine positive impact in social and economic areas through what and how we do as businesses. It is about doing the right thing. Helping to contribute towards creating success, wellbeing and prosperity for individuals, businesses, organisations, and society across Scotland and beyond.Rather than spending the time trying to measure your carbon footprint, here are eight practical steps you take as a business to start to contribute towards the Three Ps - our planet, our people, and our profitability;

Colin Lamb is founder of Connect Three, a Scottish consultancy which helps businesses improve through their people

1. Start by reviewing your purpose or mission as a business and make it a force for good. For those further down this road check out B-Corp as this will give you more structure and guidance.

2. Look at your business goals and identify opportunities to incorporate sustainability within these at either an organisational or team level.

3. Jumping on the FairWork train would be a good place to start. This is a key focus in Scotland and should be built into your people strategy. Try completing the online tool to see what areas you might want to improve.

4. Create opportunities to engage with young people to give them experience and skills to get into employment. Funded initiatives like KickStart are a great way to do this.

5. Explore opportunities for you to make a difference through the circular economy. Glasgow Chamber of Commerce are doing a great job here with Circular Glasgow but there are also other local and national initiatives too that can help to support with funding, advice, and toolkits.

6. Cut down your emissions. It’s still important. There are some quick wins that you could start to deploy in the next 12 months that could also help you save money longer term, like a cycle to work scheme, minimising waste from your products and packaging or switching to LED bulbs. Check out businessclimatehub.org/ for more ideas.

7. Offset the carbon you can’t reduce. For example, we plant trees every month in our own forest and contribute towards global regeneration projects through companies like www.ecology.com

8. Ask your employees to nominate a local charity or social enterprise and see how you can help to support them by mentoring a young person, helping to connect to other businesses or by volunteering, or donate funds to help them further. Our team have engaged with charities’ volunteering, fundraising events and physical beach cleans in the last 12 months.

Colin Lamb, founder of Connect Three

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