We interviewed four clients to understand how the coronavirus pandemic has refocused their sustainability ambitions.

Bank of Scotland has put sustainability at the top of its agenda and is supporting clients on their journey to deliver a greener and more sustainable recovery in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

As Glasgow prepares to host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) later this year, Bank of Scotland is at the heart of conversations about sustainable business models and operations, and the pursuit of new clean growth opportunities.

The Bank is committed to supporting the UK’s Clean Growth Strategy and is confident that Scottish businesses have the capability to meet these challenges.

It is financing businesses through sustainable green finance initiatives and helping high carbon sectors with a fair transition to net zero.

Despite an unsettling present and unclear future, Bank of Scotland believes in what the leading businesses that form the backbone of our economy can achieve.

Here, clients across two key sectors - Real Estate and Housing, and Sustainable and Natural Resources - explore how the pandemic has accelerated their sustainability strategies.

HFD Property Group

The multi-faceted development and investment group is currently delivering a more than 300,000 sq.ft. office in Glasgow - 177 Bothwell Street - which is supplied by 100% renewable energy. Stephen Lewis, Managing Director, explains the impact of the pandemic on their strategy.

Q. What impact has the pandemic had upon your company’s sustainability strategy?

A. The pandemic has accelerated many of the office occupation and development trends that were already in place – such as the move to agile working, the provision of office space as a service, and a greater focus on wellness. Likewise, while sustainability has been at the heart of what we do for many years, the experience of the past 12 months has accelerated our plans. Despite the pandemic, sustainability has become even more of a main priority for office occupiers and, by extension, for HFD, as we seek to exceed their requirements.

Stephen Lewis

Stephen Lewis
Managing Director at HFD Property Group

Q. Has the pandemic set you back, accelerated, or made you reassess these goals?

A. As planned, HFD is committing to publicly disclosing how our business creates long-term value for the economy, the environment and society. As owners of a significant portfolio of real estate assets in Scotland, we understand that we have an important role to play in achieving the country’s net zero carbon targets. Working with Fair Futures Partnership, we will deliver our Net Zero Action Plan in 2021.

The plan will cover the entire HFD portfolio and include operational carbon (the on-going environmental impact of a building during its operations) and landlord-procured services, plus our own corporate emissions. Our number one priority is to reduce the environmental impact of our existing portfolio and future developments as quickly and effectively as possible.

Q. Is sustainability still at the heart of your company’s strategic plans?

A. For HFD, sustainability is not a new focus. We have a long track record of industry-leading action on carbon reduction and energy efficiency. We built Scotland's first A-rated EPC commercial development in 2008 and constructed the first speculative carbon neutral office development at Eco-campus, Hamilton International Park. We are also in the process of completing 177 Bothwell Street, which will set a new bar for sustainable office development, not only in Glasgow but across the UK.

Stephen Lewis

Carbon neutral – 177 Bothwell Street

Q. Have you had any positive examples of sustainability wins over the past year?

A. During the construction shutdown enforced by the pandemic, we were able to review the goals at our current 177 Bothwell Street development – funded by Bank of Scotland with one of its first green loans. It provided us with time to reassess the building’s fuel mix and re-design the removal of gas to provide an ‘all electric’ building. As 177 Bothwell Street was already supplied with 100% renewable electricity from our associated wind farm development, it resulted in a truly net zero carbon development with the removal of the limited fossil fuels that remained in the original plans.

Q. How do you monitor your carbon footprint and make sure it extends throughout your supply chain and beyond?

A. Our previous measures for monitoring our carbon footprint are being replaced this year as part of our net zero carbon strategy and action plan. We will set emissions reduction targets aligned to a 1.5°C climate warming scenario, with a target date of 2045 or sooner. We will meaningfully engage with our occupiers, as our success will depend on mutual co-operation. We will look to continually improve the quality of our data over time and we will reference the carbon intensities of our buildings against appropriate third-party benchmarks to make sure we are on track, reporting on our progress annually. 

Wood Group

Wood Group has taken substantial steps to transform its business from a traditional oilfield services provider into broader engineering and consultancy work operating across the energy sector, assisting customers to meet the goals of energy transition and climate change.

Here, Linzie Forrester, President of Sustainable Development, and Craig Paterson-Cheyne, Global Sustainability Manager, discuss how the pandemic has given the company renewed focus.

“Sustainability was already on the agenda for Wood but, if anything, the past year has accelerated it," says Craig Paterson-Cheyne.

“It was a shot across the bows for our leadership and management, to really look at something that we didn’t plan for or anticipate, and it sped up what was already in motion."

“Being in the energy industry, the transition to a green future was already something that we were strategising around but, if anything, it pushed the conversation to the top of our business agenda.”

Linzie Forrester

Linzie Forrester
President of Sustainable Development at Wood Group

Linzie Forrester adds: “People have started to think about sustainability because they’ve had more time. Being locked down has made people more appreciative of the benefit of our outdoor environment."

The agility that has been built into the business took everyone by surprise, they say.

“It’s been a horrible time for everybody but there have been some real silver linings," continues Linzie.

“We moved at speed to have most people working remotely and now we are looking at reimagining that whole work-life balance."

"The pandemic has given us an opportunity to test out the productivity of remote working and the answers coming back are that people are possibly even more engaged."

Stephen Lewis

Craig Paterson-Cheyne
Global Sustainability Manager at Wood Group

“We’ve got a 24-hour business and there is someone in Wood working pretty much across all time zones."

“At its peak we had 21,000 employees remotely logging into our network out of 40,000."

“It’s really unlocked the imagination in our leadership team, to reimagine our office spaces, to provide our people with different options and flexibilities, to fit working hours around their life and balancing out priorities."

“And, as mental health issues started to surface, understanding how we check in and how we protect people."

“Will we go back to the normal Monday to Friday 9-5? No, I don’t think so. For many companies that's gone, and I think you are a dinosaur if you go back to that.”

The pandemic has accelerated the strategic goals of Wood. 

Linzie explains:

“Our leaders have really started to think about our sustainability agenda and the rhetoric is ‘Would your kids join Wood? What kind of company do you want your children to inherit?’

“That has got many of our leaders across the business thinking about sustainability and how can they can get involved.”

Many of Wood’s oil and gas customers are asking for help to reach net zero.

“There is a transition going on – we are servicing the oil and gas industry but sustainable infrastructure is our future,” says Linzie.

“We never forget we have an industry to look after but we want to be on that journey with them – it’s at the heart of what we do."

“We are looking at our own carbon footprint as well as that of our clients and the opportunity for Wood to make real reductions is something we have latched onto."

Artisan Real Estate

This residential developer has a strong focus on sustainability and units being delivered already meet or exceed Council planning policy levels. Their latest scheme in Edinburgh, Rowanbank Gardens, will be 50% above Council planning policy levels for sustainability. Here, Clive Wilding, Development Director, describes how the pandemic has influenced their thinking.

Q. What impact has the pandemic had upon your company’s sustainability strategy?

AArtisan was already changing and driving towards delivery of homes with higher sustainability standards but Covid-19 has had a ‘turbo’ impact with a real focus on personal space, the ability to work from home, quality of external spaces and a focus on local communities.

Clive Wilding

Clive Wilding
Development Director at Artisan Real Estate

Q. Has the pandemic set you back, accelerated, or made you reassess your goals?

A. The challenges highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the importance of changing the way we deliver new home development. We had already committed to step up a gear in housing delivery as we felt the market had been signalling a change to improve the quality of new homes. We are now very much going above and beyond the existing Council guidelines as outlined in its ‘Future Edinburgh’ strategy.

We are committed to reducing urban sprawl, by optimising the number of well-designed, sustainable homes in low car-use locations. We are also envisaging what people want from their living environment, post-Covid-19.

Q. Is sustainability still at the heart of your company’s strategic plans?

A. Absolutely, more than ever. Our main targets are: no use of fossil fuels, urban living in 15 minute communities (yet not at a price of high density), improved external space and improved ecology with use of green roofs and water reduction. 

Rowanbank Gardens

Rowanbank Gardens

Low carbon living at Rowanbank Gardens

Rowanbank Gardens has been heralded as a blueprint for post-Covid living, bringing together smart energy-efficient design geared to achieving low to zero carbon ratings whilst responding to the rapidly changing requirements of home buyers and the wider community following lockdown.

Homes have been designed around an internal courtyard garden filled with fruit trees and communal planting and growing beds - as well as a children’s play park, a natural woodland area and formal lawns. The apartments are designed for open plan living with most having easy access to a private courtyard or large balcony overlooking the gardens, while innovations such as green roofs ensure benefits of surface water retention, improved insulation and ecology.

Q. Have you had any positive examples of sustainability wins over the past year?

A. Our latest development, Rowanbank, Corstorphine, Edinburgh, uses no fossil fuels and has a 50% improvement on the current building regulations, with improved communal external spaces, community gardening food projects and extensive green roofs.

Q. How do you monitor your carbon footprint and make sure it extends throughout your supply chain and beyond?

A. We have, and continue to, monitor our carbon footprint, developing a benchmarking tool that measures a holistic approach to our carbon footprint. It’s all about ecology alongside energy and materials - and suppliers fit into that strategy. We will continue to improve on this tool as we move forward.

Global Energy Group

Global Energy Group has entered into several strategic partnerships to execute large scale renewable energy contracts in the UK. Here, Gordon Farmer, Chief Financial Officer, talks about their sustainability ambitions.

Q. What impact has the pandemic had upon the sustainability strategy at Global Energy Group?

A. The pandemic had a significant impact on the Group's sustainability strategy because of available cash/capital to reinvest from the core business trading activities. Forecasted activity in the business changed quickly with reduced headcounts and limited international travel. The Group had finished its financial period to 31 March 2020 with a strong trading performance and has taken a view to now reinvest in core assets within the business, supporting an energy transition strategy, but is having to be more prudent with capital deployment.

Q. Has the pandemic set you back, accelerated, or made you reassess these goals?

A. The pandemic has accelerated the Group's sustainability strategy. The Group was very aware and focused on a diversification strategy supporting the evolving energy market and the needs of its customers prior to Covid-19. The pandemic has accelerated the Government’s infrastructure spend and has enabled the Group to accelerate its plans in areas and access to capital for alternative energy projects.

Gordon Farmer

Gordon Farmer
Chief Financial Officer at Global Energy Group

Q. Is sustainability still at the heart of your company’s strategic plans?

A. Yes, sustainability and ensuring employment for both the Highlands and north of Scotland has always been of key importance to the shareholders of the business. The energy market is going through significant change and it is key we continue to support existing customers as the sector evolves.

Q. Have you had any positive examples of sustainability wins over the past year?

A. Yes, we have had several positive contract awards relating to the Port of Nigg Facility including the award of the Seagreen and Moray East Offshore Wind Farms staging port scopes. These coupled with our ambitious plans to develop the Port of Nigg site, with the addition of an offshore wind tower manufacturing plant powered by a green hydrogen plant in the yard, highlights the Group's focus on supporting the energy transition.

Q. How do you monitor your carbon footprint and make sure it extends through to your supply chain and beyond?

A. We have started to work on measuring the carbon footprint of the business by monitoring the heat and energy usage of the Group's activities at all of our facilities. As owners and operators of the Port of Nigg, it is our intent that the site becomes carbon neutral and as highlighted above have plans to bring hydrogen production solutions to the facility to power our fabrication and logistics operations.

The Group provides a skilled mobile workforce that support asset owners in various locations with their own carbon reduction targets. This is a key agenda item in senior management and board discussions.

You can access discounted lending for green purposes through Bank of Scotland’s Clean Growth Financing Initiative.

All lending is subject to status.

Financing sustainable business growth

Access discounted lending for green purposes through Bank of Scotland’s Clean Growth Financing Initiative – which aims to be the most inclusive UK proposition in the market.

Clean growth sustainability audit

Our guide can help you get started on conducting your sustainability audit. It covers the benefits, step-by-step instructions and ideas for improvement projects.

Supporting a greener and more sustainable future

We have partnered with Scottish Business Insider to help Scottish businesses on their sustainability journey.