Zero Waste Scotland publishes five-step net-zero plan

Zero Waste Scotland has published a five-step net-zero plan in a bid to address the climate emergency and the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.

An image of our path to net zero report

Released today (8 June), ‘Our path to Net-Zero’ identifies steps businesses, councils and third sector organisations can take to ensure that in rebuilding post-coronavirus, they also meet their environmental obligations to tackle the climate emergency.

In Scotland, the government aims to end the nation’s contribution to the climate crisis by 2045, encouraging all public bodies nationwide to develop their own net-zero plans.

Whilst the plan highlights Zero Waste Scotland “journey” to net-zero by cutting its carbon footprint, the organisation’s Chief Executive Iain Gulland hopes that the plan will be “a path that others may follow”.

The five principles set out in Zero Waste Scotland’s plan are:

  1. Be led by evidence (covering calculating and targeting worst emissions)
  2. Achieve absolute emissions reductions
  3. Prioritise reducing emissions over offsetting
  4. Go beyond net-zero to tackle your whole carbon footprint
  5. Share successes and failures to help accelerate change

With four fifths of Scotland’s carbon footprint caused by all the goods, materials and services produced, the plan identifies that finding out the largest contributor to a company’s carbon footprint is the most important step to take, given there is no universal source or solution.

On that note, Zero Waste Scotland also revealed what steps it had been taking to reduce its own carbon footprint. The majority of Zero Waste Scotland’s operational emissions in 2018/2019 were caused by corporate travel, electricity and gas, which together accounted for 97 per cent of its total emissions.

It outlines its steps to cut its operational emissions by 45 per cent by 2023, including outsourced carbon impacts.

Steps will be taken to reduce corporate travel emissions by 53 per cent by capping reducing total flight miles and staff vehicle miles by 20 per cent and 50 per cent respectively per annum to 2022/23. Moreover, 60 per cent of its electricity servers will be switched to the cloud, operating on 100 per cent renewable wind energy.

A separate report released by the organisation, ‘On the path to net-zero’, underlines existing actions that have been taken by the organisation to reduce its carbon footprint. These include: implementing a no-fly zone for mainland UK, Benelux countries and Paris, reducing office printing by 65 per cent in the last four years and switching to reusable glass bottles in the office environment.

Launching the plan, Gulland said: “For everyone, including us, the starting point in ending Scotland’s contribution to the climate crisis is identifying the key causes of your own organisation’s emissions so you can target them effectively.

“We are publishing our net-zero plan so that businesses, councils and other organisations can see how to do that, what it means for us and work out what it will look like for them, because every organisation is different.

“What we share, however, is a collective responsibility to act. We are all in this together and, as the current coronavirus crisis has shown, we are also all learning together what we can do differently in response to a global crisis. We have rightly been focused on overcoming the pandemic as the most urgent threat short-term, but we all want lockdown to end as soon as it is safe to ease these challenging but vital restrictions.

Kate Dapré, Chair of Sustainable Scotland Network (SSN), said: “Zero Waste Scotland’s Net-Zero Plan makes an important contribution as we all now focus on aligning our plans to the twin tasks of meeting our net-zero emissions targets and recovering from the current public health emergency.

“SSN is pleased to be working in partnership with Zero Waste Scotland to make sure public sector action is effective in delivering change.”

During the pandemic, the Zero Waste Scotland and the Scottish Government have sought to support struggling councils by matching them with private sector resources to maintain key waste service operations. They also launched a campaign, centring on a new website, directing householders and businesses to up-to-date-information on how to manage their waste.

Aside from disruption to waste services, the Covid-19 pandemic has also disrupted the legislative process. Last month, the Scottish Parliament approved regulations that will establish a deposit return scheme (DRS) for drinks containers. However, due to concerns surrounding the impact on businesses after the Covid-19 pandemic, the implementation has been delayed from April 2021 to June 2022.

You can read Zero Waste Scotland’s full report ‘Our Path to Net-Zero’ on its website.