In the latest episode of the A Greener World Needs A Plan podcast series, fashion trailblazer Dr Antoinette Fionda-Douglas says the event could be a real catalyst for change.
The founder of Beira, which sources used materials from the luxury fashion industry and produces limited-edition, sustainable women’s clothing, says: “For me, COP26 was fantastic and I know that many other companies were really inspired by it.
“It was great to see fantastic green businesses learning from each other – talking to like-minded sustainable businesses that are pushing boundaries and making a difference. I think that’s the biggest legacy of COP26.
Martin Valenti, director of NetZero at South of Scotland Enterprise, said: “In these two weeks, companies have come and gone, 90% of them being SMEs, saying ‘I’m all over this program.’
However, there have been warnings that there is still a long way to go – but this action is needed now.
Darren Pirie, Head of Proposals and Engagement for Business and Climate at Royal Bank of Scotland, said: “I think [COP26] was a great focal point to bring it all together and I’m very proud of the role the bank has played. That’s just the starting point, though.
Martin Valenti insists on the fact that it is necessary to act now, and not at a precise moment in the future: “I cannot stress enough with companies: do not put this in the long grass. The important thing for banks and others is to convince people that tomorrow is today. The clean zero and the just transition are not sound clips; these are real business opportunities.
To help small businesses go greener, Royal Bank, part of the NatWest group, launched new green loans and green asset financing in February.
New financial products help finance green activities or green assets, explains Darren Pirie: “There is an appetite in the market for something that helps our customers underline their commitment to the green agenda.
“Examples could be simple things like solar panels, an electric vehicle or renovating an old building to improve its energy efficiency. Companies are looking to make these changes [as] demonstrable examples of where they are greening their business and living up to the net zero ambition. Our loans support these types of activities.
Mr Pirie says it’s part of a broader package of support for small businesses, starting with tools to help them understand their environmental impact: “At this stage we’re looking at how we’re helping our customers understand the plan. of action – what are the 2, 3, 10 key things they could do to move to a better place on their emissions or environmental impact?”
Antoinette Fionda-Douglas welcomes green lending, saying, “Sustainable small businesses need help. We try to do things differently and often we work against the status quo. This little extra help can make the difference.
However, she fears that the public still doesn’t know exactly what sustainability means: “65% of people say ‘Yes, we want to be more sustainable.’ But I don’t really think people know what sustainability is. I think there’s a general lack of education on what that means in terms of the fashion industry, and a lot of greenwashing.
“We are used to really cheap and unsustainable prices for fashion products. And it’s wrong – someone somewhere is paying for it. There are 100 to 150 billion new clothes made every year, and most of them end up in landfills. It is unsustainable in many ways.
Ms Fionda-Douglas says businesses need to take action – and points out that greener can be cheaper: “Small businesses sometimes think that being sustainable costs more, but for us it certainly doesn’t. We’ve looked for the most sustainable solution for every decision we make and 8 times out of 10 it’s the cheapest option.
Martin Valenti agrees: “When you’re talking to small businesses, it’s about saving energy, saving money. It’s about not wasting resources and rolling out new ideas.
Mr. Valenti says COP26 helped make people realize that it’s not all about choices.
“Part of the legacy of COP26 is a wake-up call,” he explains. “We had 25 COPS before and 24 failed because we said you can have an economic or environmental outcome, but you can’t have both. But we know you can have your cake and eat it in Scotland.
“Our mindset is ‘Hope mobilizes, fear paralyzes’. We will not be afraid of climate change. We will be respectful of the challenge, but we will be relentless in our quest to find solutions. If you get a narrative like that, people say “Count me in”.
And Mr Valenti thinks a generational shift means we’ll stay firmly on the green lane: “Young people are much more savvy in this space, more eager to see the action.” People used to say, ‘Someone should do something about climate change’. What I hear now are young people saying, “Yeah, me. I will do something about climate change and you will get out of my way”. I like that attitude – the young breed that says you’ve gone as far as you can – we have more ideas and we’re not as afraid to take big risks.
Darren Pirie says the real success of Royal Bank’s green approach would be if it delivers tangible benefits to customers: “We’re starting to look at how we’re expanding the range of financing solutions we can offer and leveraging data to provide tailor-made and personalized customer support. . When this starts to happen holistically in all activities, that’s when you can start to call it success.
You can listen to the podcast here.