Scotland’s transition to a low carbon economy can only be achieved with well-supported SMEs at the heart of change, writes Paula Ritchie, Director, Enterprise, Royal Bank of Scotland.
An October morning and the sun is warm enough for the Autumn morning run uniform of fleece and beanie hat to be left at home. That Scottish sense of optimism that an unfrozen windscreen creates is tempered – but also heated – by the fact that in a matter of weeks, Glasgow, and Scotland, will host COP26.
Weather is the traditional yardstick for so many when it comes to the question of climate change but for anyone who works in this city, the issue is more tangible than ever. The distinctive blue and green COP26 branding sits alongside its sandstone streets, guiding the world to its temporary home on the banks of the Clydeside.
At the SEC in November we will see the emergence of policies and pathways to help countries, parliaments and the public emerge from a situation that impacts everyone.
Whatever paths are taken and whatever decisions are made, banks like Royal Bank of Scotland and the business communities we serve will have a significant role to play.
Not only in getting our own houses in order but in helping our customers make the transition and, in so doing, supporting a green recovery.
Which is why, last year, we committed to halving the climate impact of our financing activity by 2030 and why we intend to join the growing coalition of organisations in the Race to Zero, championed by the UK COP26 presidency and others.
This is not just the right thing to do; it is fundamental to delivering a sustainable future for any business. By building long-term relationships with our customers and supporting them at every stage of their lives, we will build long-term value in our bank and drive sustainable returns for shareholders.
We are focused on working alongside our customers – from individuals, to SMEs through to the largest corporations – to help put in place credible plans that will allow them to thrive as we transition to a low carbon economy.
To make that happen we need to help them be the catalyst in helping them achieve this.
Scottish SMEs can be at the heart of this.
That is why last month we announced a new partnership with the University of Edinburgh.
The £1m programme, supported by the bank’s 300 Fund, will see experts from the University’s Edinburgh Climate Change Institute and Royal Bank’s business banking specialists work together to help firms identify the opportunities a net zero economy can create while helping them become more sustainable operations in the process.
ECCI will work closely with the bank to develop the tools, advice and materials that will enable businesses to understand and take action to reduce their climate impact, to fully contribute to tackling climate change, and to identify and realise the business opportunities from being at the forefront of the net zero economy.
Content will include toolkits, online learning, mentoring and peer-to-peer work that will provide knowledge, training and advice to help SMEs to become key agents in driving a more sustainable and resilient economy.
Partnerships like this are crucial. The power of entrepreneurships and the ability of successful businesses to reinvent themselves as they see the market opportunities, is so important.
One of Scotland’s best known entrepreneur awards, the Scottish EDGE Awards, is an example of this needs for reinvention and to explore the opportunities they present.
As a bank, we have been a long-term supporter of the competition and this year we are bringing it to the heart of COP26.
A selection of sustainable companies will get the chance to pitch onstage at the event to secure funding of up to £100,000, in front of delegates from across the globe.
It builds on the work we’ve already been doing in helping high growth companies to bring sustainability into their mindset from an early stage.
At our new offices on Queen Street, a quarter of all of the businesses using our incubator hub must be climate focused or operate in the sector. We’ve reserved 25 per cent of all spaces at our 12 hubs across the UK to operate in the same way.
It isn’t just the right thing to do, it is to help create a network that is here for the long-term; one that will make a real difference across all sectors.
We need a supply chain that knows there is going to be a high level of demand there for many years.
They can then invest not just in the infrastructure and kit and equipment that they need, but also in the capabilities, the learning and knowhow that’s going to be vitally important to support people making that transition and driving towards that lower carbon future.
COP26 is the time to take the climate challenge in from the cold and create a landscape where the race to net zero becomes a warmer opportunity for all.
AMAZON TAKES A SHINE TO SCOTTISH TEAM’S INNOVATIVE FLAT PACK SOLAR ENERGY KIT
A DUNDEE company that launched a pioneering thermal collector following support from Royal Bank of Scotland’s Climate Entrepreneur Accelerator has been accepted onto Amazon Launchpad – enabling the product to be offered globally.
SolarisKit was established in 2019 by mechanical engineer Dr Faisal Ghani to harness solar energy in an affordable, practical way to heat water. Its S400 flat-packable solar thermal collector is one of the easiest and cheapest solar thermal collectors to install in the world – and can be used to heat above-ground pools during the summer months, or provide hot water to camping and glamping sites.
Available to buy on Amazon from 1st September and retailing at £189, SolarisKit has pledged to plant 25 trees globally for every kit sold, through a partnership with Eden Reforestation Project.
With ambitious plans to sell up to 160 S200 thermal collectors per week, SolarisKit is set to contribute to the planting of 4,000 trees, offsetting roughly 40,000 kilogrammes of carbon per year.
Amazon Launchpad is an exclusive, invitation-only programme designed specifically for innovative and unique brands to accelerate their growth on Amazon. SolarisKit earned its place in the scheme thanks to founder Dr Ghani’s experience in the Royal Bank of Scotland Climate Entrepreneur Accelerator.
The three-month digital programme delivered the tools, guidance and contacts required to help SolarisKit grow, enabling the team to establish a commercial plan, network, and find investors to back the product.
As principal partner of the COP26 conference in Glasgow, Royal Bank of Scotland recently relaunched its Entrepreneur Accelerator with a climate focus after its ‘springboard to recovery’ report found that supporting scale-ups and a shift towards sustainability could have the potential to help unlock £140 billion in economic growth. The programme underlines the bank’s commitment to reducing the climate impact of its financing activity by half by the end of the decade.
Royal Bank of Scotland also established a corporate partnership with SolarisKit, becoming its first UK customer, with plans in place to install the thermal collector at its Gogarburn HQ in Edinburgh.
Dr Faisal Ghani, founder and CEO of SolarisKit, said: “This exciting next step in our journey is testament to the valuable lessons learned through Royal Bank of Scotland’s Climate Accelerator.”
Paula Ritchie, Enterprise Director at Royal Bank of Scotland, said: “From trials in Rwanda to the development of a new product combining the thermal collector with a water storage tank, SolarisKit’s journey has been remarkable since graduating from our Climate Accelerator.
Amazon Launchpad is set to propel the business to further success whilst contributing to climate change in a meaningful way.”
This article is brought to you in association with Royal Bank of Scotland as part of The Herald’s 100 Days of Hope campaign.