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Pace over perfection is how we’ll achieve Net Zero targets

 


Recap of Congress of Business 2024

The Recycle Scotland team joined this year’s Congress of Business (COB) as part of Glasgow’s first ever Climate Week. It was an inspiring day networking with our peers and hearing from the speakers and panelists about the issue of transitioning towards a more sustainable economy. We had the opportunity to listen to some excellent discussions on the critical importance of scaling and delivering on the journey to Net Zero.

Keep reading for our roundup of the event.

Insights from the day

Derek Provan, President of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, started the morning with a quote from Aritstotle: “What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?” It certainly set the tone for the day, clearly laying out that something has to change if we want to actually see change. He emphasised the need to move beyond strategy and commitment highlighting how important is that we act decisively.

Sarah Howard MBE, Chair of the British Chamber of Commerce, spoke on the importance of SMEs in the UK economy. Making up 99.9% of UK private sector businesses, SMEs are “the change makers and risktakers” and play a critical role in the circular economy and the fight against climate change. “Businesses sit at the heart of the solution” and as members of the SME community, we have a real opportunity to effect change.

James Close, Head of Climate Change at NatWest Group, presented a sobering reality: 75% of scientists believe we will exceed the 2-degree global warming threshold. This is influenced no doubt by the decline in global circularity rates (according to the Circularity Gap Reporting Initiative, the use of secondary materials has reduced from 9.1% in 2018 to 7.2% in 2023). He called for urgent action, prioritising pace over perfection.

The final talk before the morning break was Emma Howard Boyd, discussing the increasing frequency of climate-related disasters and the necessity for businesses to prepare and adapt. In a joint Q&A with James, they spoke on green finance and the need for businesses to build resilience. Emma highlighted how we need to be viewing resilience as an opportunity rather than a challenge and reminded of the risk to GDP when we don’t invest in the natural environment. Likewise, sustainability is playing a large role in finance opportunities. Where green finance was initially focused on clean energy and delivering that transition, it’s now evolved into something that’s viewed on a sector-by-sector basis. And it’s become a circular system, aligning the sources of capital with the users of capital, investing in others who want to do something sustainable.

Sharing knowledge and ideas was the key theme of the morning’s panel discussion with Catherine McGuiness CBE, Catapult Connected Places; Councillor Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council; and Nick Cochrane-Dyet MBE, BCC Abu Dhabi. As Catherine said, “We don’t want people designing the same piece of the puzzle over and over again”. We need to share knowledge and it needs to be on a global scale. Action and collaboration will drive change, that’s the way forward.

To cap off the morning, Political Economist and Journalist Will Hutton discussed the concept of a ‘we’ society, advocating for social structures that support both environmental sustainability and social equity. This kind of society combines the idea of a social floor below which no one can fall and the notion of having ladders upward. We need these ladders if we’re going to see the kind of progress we need in order to reach Net Zero.

Innovation, reuse and repurposing for a greener future

At Recycle Scotland, we work with a lot of universities, making it particularly inspiring to hear from Anton Muscatelli, the Principal of University of Glasgow, on the vital role higher education plays in the journey towards achieving Net Zero. Through initiatives like the Glasgow Riverside Innovation District, we can use the university’s expertise to unlock collaboration and innovation in various sectors, highlighting the contributions of academia to environmental sustainability. Universities create an opportunity for groundbreaking advancements for a greener future.

The panel discussion on de-carbonisation in the built environment stressed the role of design in achieving sustainability goals. We need to be retrofitting existing structures and creating workspaces that inspire pride and better quality of life. Designer and sustainability advocate Anna Campbell-Jones, inspired attendees with her practical approach to sustainability in design. She spoke about the significance of small, thoughtful steps in promoting sustainability, emphasising reuse, repurposing, and making design decisions which prioritise long-term sustainability over fleeting trends.

From strategic leadership and business engagement to innovation and design, COB24 showcased how we need collaboration and contributions from all sectors to tackle the climate emergency. The key takeaway is clear: there’s an unparalleled opportunity for businesses to innovate, invest, and lead the way toward a sustainable future.

Isabel Wilson-Beales Business Executive

Isabel Wilson-Beales, Business Executive

To get in touch with Isabel and find out how Recycle Scotland can support your business with sustainable furniture solutions, email her at isabel.wilson-beales@recycle-scotland.co.uk