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Six easy steps to net zero and a nature-rich future

Scotland’s world-leading climate change legislation sets a target of net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases by 2045. Put simply, net zero refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. It is reached when the amount added is no more than the amount taken away.

Scotland is facing a nature emergency. Half of species are in decline. One-in-nine are threatened with national extinction. Your business can help by taking action to protect and restore biodiversity – such as creating habitats for bees on your land, installing a green roof on your building, planting native trees to regenerate Scotland’s woodlands, or using nature to help manage water on your premises.

Any business of any size in any part of the country can play their part to help us get there and end Scotland’s contribution to climate change by 2045, as well as help us build a nature-rich future and make Scotland nature-positive.

What can you do to save the planet – and save money at the same time? Here are six easy steps to get your business started on its journey to net zero and a nature-rich future:

1. Know your numbers

First things first, you need to know your numbers. All businesses need to understand, measure and reduce their emissions. It’s important to calculate your carbon footprint, track your energy usage and monitor your waste generation.

Identifying how your business contributes to climate change can help you identify the next steps you need to take. It will also help you to increase efficiency and reduce costs, as well as identify new opportunities within a circular economy. A Four Capitals approach can help you understand how your business depends on natural, social, human and produced capital, so you can make positive decisions and produce measurable benefits.

  • The Carbon Trust’s free SME carbon footprint calculator is quick, easy and tailored to small businesses
  • Traffic Scotland’s CO2 Emission Calculator enables you to calculate the carbon emissions for your transport journey
  • Delve deeper into the UK’s potential pathways to net zero with the MacKay Carbon Calculator from the UK Government
  • Make a start in measuring your carbon footprint with the help of organisations such as the e-collective.
  • Setting targets for your business by using organisations like the Science-based Targets Initiative demonstrates your commitment to monitoring your impact on the environment.
  • Similar tools are being developed to help your business take account of nature in your decisions – and to track your performance on helping to create the nature-positive Scotland of the future. The Capitals Coalition has free guides and supplements to provide sector- or area-specific insights that support the Natural Capital Protocol.

2. Start with the basics

Once you know the carbon footprint of your business, starting with the basics can help employers and employees to make a real difference. Focus on practical, tangible and achievable steps.

Make it easy for your visitors and staff to recycle paper, food waste, plastics, glass and cans. Consider where your food comes from. Ask your staff to switch off lights, machinery and IT equipment when they’re not in use – or explore how sensors and the Internet of Things (IoT) can help you maximise energy efficiency. Encourage and enable active travel for short journeys and take the train or bus to your next face-to-face meeting. Ask the experts about how retrofit and insulation could help reduce your energy bills.

Many of these actions will benefit nature as well – also look out for easy ways to make your business premises nature-friendly.

  • The Energy Saving Trust provide advice, resources and funding for business
  • Zero Waste Scotland can help you save energy and save money with their free ‘green office’ guide or dedicated one-to-one support from a specialist
  • Check out these handy tips for an ‘eco-friendly office’ from the RSPB
  • Find out from IoT Scotland whether new tech could help your business with environmental monitoring, asset management or energy management

3. Switch to electric

Transport is the biggest contributor to Scotland’s carbon emissions, because of our reliance on petrol or diesel cars, vans and lorries. By switching your company car or your firm’s vehicle fleet to electric, you can save money and reduce emissions.

Electric vehicles (EVs) produce zero CO2 tailpipe emissions. The average range of an electric vehicle is 155 miles and charging costs less than half the price of diesel or petrol.

4. Support biodiversity: Protect bees, plant trees!

Scotland is facing a nature emergency. Half of species are in decline. 1 in 9 are threatened with national extinction. Your business can help by taking action to protect and restore biodiversity  – such as creating habitats for bees on your land, installing a ‘green roof’ on your building, or planting trees to help restore Scotland.

These habitats are vital to the stability of not just the natural world but also for the world that people live in and that businesses operate in. Protecting the diversity of species in our environment doesn’t just benefit nature: it ensures that future generations enjoy nature, and presents opportunities to meet customers’ demand through making more ethical produce more efficiently and sustainably. This helps to create a nature-positive Scotland.


  • Plan Bee help businesses to establish and manage honeybee hives
  • Information and advice from the Scottish Beekeepers Association, which supports conservation of the honeybee
  • Information and advice on green roofs in his helpful Homebuilding & Renovating blog
  • Partner with Trees for Life, a charity in the Highlands, to support biodiversity and carbon offsetting through tree planting and rewilding
  • Partner with Forestry and Land Scotland, Scotland’s largest land manager, to create new native woodlands or restore degraded peatlands
  • Partner with the John Muir Trust – Scotland’s leading charity dedicated to the experience, protection, and repair of wild places – provides opportunities for your business to collaborate for the benefit Scotland’s great outdoors.
  • Advice and support from Woodland Trust Scotland restore Scotland’s native woodlands.

5. Make use of nature-based solutions

Scotland’s natural environment will play a vital role in our journey to net zero and a nature-rich future. If treated well by protecting, restoring and valuing it, nature can yield about a third of our avoided and removed emissions that are needed by 2030.

Through your business you can adopt nature-based solutions to help protect and restore the environment, providing benefits to people and nature but also to your organisation.

Working collaboratively with partners and across sectors, industries, or regional partnerships will be key. However, there are also lots of smart opportunities for your business, whether you are based in an urban or rural area, to incorporate the natural environment or natural resources into how you manage your business’ value and supply chain. The benefits are not only clear for environmental resilience but increasingly for business resilience – including managing risks by protecting business-critical natural resources and assets that will help you adapt to a changing climate.

Using regenerative produce or processes can have benefits in differentiating the quality of your products or services, and provide you with a social license to operate. Restoring natural habitats can provide benefits, such as offering a more sustainable experience for tourists and the communities they visit, or reviving rivers for water-based industries such as distilling. Using natural packaging or natural power sources – while great for the environment – can also help make significant long-term efficiency savings. Planting native trees and bushes will help provide shade and shelter for people and buildings. Other natural spaces – such as green roofs and rain gardens – are a good way of managing water around buildings and other business premises, reducing cooling and heating costs, reducing noise, and increasing employee welfare.

  • The Scottish Government’s Rural Development Programme can provide money and support for environmental restoration schemes.
  • Apply for B Corps certification to demonstrate your organisation’s high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability.
  • Getting involved with Leave No Trace supports education and training initiatives to help those operating in the natural world to protect the environment.
  • Cradle to Cradle Certification shows that your business meets the global standard for sustainable products that are circular and responsibly made.
  • Work with the Peatland ACTION project which provides funding for on-the-ground restoration activities.
  • Apply for third-party certification of your Nature-based Solution intervention through certification schemes recognized by IUCN’s Global Standard on NbS, including Forest Stewardship Council or FairTrade International (launched 2022).

6. Go green with renewables

There can be few clearer signs of your commitment to net zero by powering your business with renewable energy.

It can be a significant up-front investment, but there are lots of different options, so consider the right solution for your business. You could install solar panels on the roof of your factory or warehouse. You could build a wind turbine on your land. Or you could install a ground-source heat pump for your home, office or shop.

  • Scottish Enterprise’s specialists can help you develop a sustainability plan for your business
  • Grants and loans from the Scottish Government to help businesses and communities invest in local and small-scale renewables
  • Advice, funding and resources from Local Energy Scotland
  • Scottish Enterprise’s Energy Investment Fund provides flexible investment and debt funding for low- and zero-carbon energy projects
  • Information and advice on ground source heat pumps from the Energy Saving Trust
  • Zero Waste Scotland‘s SME Loan Fund could help your small business fund installation of heating renewables or energy efficiency measures

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