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Tackling climate change is the biggest challenge facing Scottish tourism now, and in the future, and we want to inspire future generations to say that Scottish tourism led the way and made a difference.  

Scotland is already considered as a leader in the field of responsible tourism – and now is the time to take it to the next level. A responsible and low carbon approach to re-building and growing tourism in Scotland needs to be a priority, and there’s no time to sit back and hope others deliver.  

On this page you will find information on:

Climate change and tourism

Tourism is a clear contributor to the global climate crisis, but also stands to suffer its consequences, therefore it is now more important than ever for tourism to step up and show how the sector can be part of the solution.  

The experience of recent years has shown us that climate change and extreme weather events have already impacted many aspects of our natural environment as well as our communities and businesses. Find out more about the predicted consequences of climate change in Scotland and what impact these may have at the Adaption Scotland website. 

Together, we must take an ambitious stand on climate change if we want to preserve and enhance Scotland’s natural and cultural heritage – regenerating a thriving environment, which benefits communities, businesses, and our visitors.   

We’re asking the Scottish tourism sector - businesses, destinations, organisations, and partners - to prioritise responsible, low carbon growth and join us on the journey to Destination Net Zero. 

By taking action, a business can not only reduce costs and build resilience, but it will meet the increasing consumer demand for sustainable businesses focused on delivering responsible tourism. The good news is, we’re here to help you along the way.

What is net zero?

'Net zero' means the amount of greenhouse gas emissions we put into the atmosphere and the amount we’re able to take out will add up to zero. Our first step is to reduce emissions by changing our actions and processes, but not all emissions can be avoided. 

Scottish Government has set a 2045 target for net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases with a reduction of 75% by 2030 and 90% by 2040. Read more on its ambitions at the Scottish Government's Climate Change page.  

Advice and support

You can begin your climate action today by taking a look at our top tips, getting inspiration from others who have begun their journey and by looking at the other resources available to you from our partners. 

Top tips for your journey to net zero

Considering some key questions can be helpful in mapping out your journey. This will help ensure that you take climate action that has the biggest impact on reducing your carbon emissions, and that will ultimately benefit your business.

Where am I now?

Firstly, it is important to understand your current emissions and where they are coming from, for example the energy you use for heat and power and fuel used for your vehicles. Secondly, we recommend to getting a clear sense of your indirect emissions associated with your business activity, which includes your supply chain, as well as staff travel and waste disposal. 

Measure and report on your emissions. Only by knowing how much you are emitting, can you prioritise actions and make effective changes. Visit the Zero Waste Scotland website to find out more on how to calcuate your business' carbon footprint

You can start by undertaking an energy audit: 

Take advantage of specialist advice through the Free Virtual Energy Assessments service by visiting the Energy Efficiency Business Support website.

Where am I going? 

Once you have established where you are, it is important to set targets for when you aim to reach net zero emissions and milestones along the way. As a starting point we recommend aligning your targets with Scotland’s net zero by 2045 ambitions and a milestone of 75% reduction by 2030. You can always review your targets as you go along and see if you can be more ambitious, like many businesses and destinations already are. 

You now have the basics in place to set out your climate action plan.  

Make sure to monitor your progress and share your plans with your staff, your customers, and your suppliers.  

How am I going to get there?

Reaching net zero emissions by 2045 will involve us all making changes to how we use energy, how we travel, what we buy and reducing waste. Many are practical actions that are low cost or no cost but others will require investment. There is a wide range of advice and support available for your business. 

Through answering the previous questions, you will be able to identify the priority actions for your business, in the following key areas. 

  • Energy

    When looking to reduce your emissions the best place to start is to make your premises as energy efficient as possible, whether that is through installing energy efficient lighting, increasing insulation, or better controlling your heating system. Next, it is important to consider how your energy is generated. It could be as simple as switching to a renewable energy supplier or taking the step to low carbon or renewable options for heating your premises.

    Visit Zero Waste Scotland's Energy Efficiency Business Support website to find out about the SME loan available, interest free for up to £100k, to help you pay for energy and carbon saving upgrades in your business. 

  • Travel

    We all need to get around – particularly our visitors – however, by changing part of our journey to a more sustainable way of travelling, we can make a difference. Consider encouraging your staff to walk to work or support them to cycle or take public transport. 

    Make sure to communicate to your visitors on the different and sustainable ways that they can reach your business, as well as how to best explore the area and experience Scotland. Why not give them ideas for car-free days out, promoting your local destination at the same time? 

     

  • Transport

    The number of EV drivers is rapidly increasing and offering a chargepoint can be a point of difference for your customers and underpin your commitment to climate action. Consider taking advantage of the Business EV charge point grant funding. You can read more about the grant on the Energy Saving Trust's dedicated page. 

    If vehicles are a key source of your business’s carbon emissions, as a tour operator for example, why not get free, impartial and expert Electric car and van advice (for SMEs) from the Energy Saving Trust to support your transition to an electric fleet. Visit the Advice to SMEs page to find out more on the advice available.

    The Trust's website also provides information on the low carbon transport business loan to support the purchase of new more efficient vehicles. View the dedicated Low Carbon Business Loan page

  • Reducing food waste

    You’ll generate waste made up of a range of materials, including plastic, glass, metal, paper, cardboard and possibly food. Reviewing what makes up most of your waste and taking action to reduce the waste going in the bin in the first place can not only reduce your carbon footprint but also save you money. 

    If you have food waste in your business, this should be tackled as a priority to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. Most businesses do not realise how much food is being wasted, or how much it is costing their business.  

    Find out more about opportunities to reduce your food waste and the advice and support available from Zero Waste Scotland.

Share your story

With your customers 

Consumers want to travel more sustainably and manage their interactions with a destination and its residents in a thoughtful manner. Let people know what you’re doing and help them to reduce their carbon emissions when visiting.  

Why not consider joining a Green Certification programme, which will provide you with a credible and independently verified badge to promote your commitment and actions to your customers. 

Use your own channels to let visitors know what steps you’re taking – and the results.  

Encourage visitors to enjoy Scotland responsibly - the responsible tourism travel section of VisitScotland.com is a useful source of information for your visitors, take a look at our dedicated page.

We also have many other resources you can share within our responsible visitor guide which you can view in the responsible tourism section on our website.

We're also encouraging visitors to 'tread lightly' as part of our latest marketing campaign. Find ideas and inspiration on our website, via social and through our marketing. We'll be highlighting the best of Scotland’s green offering and showing that, by making sustainable travel choices, we can all help protect our landscapes at the same time as boosting the local economy, culture and diversity of the areas we visit. We are committed to working with tourism and events businesses and communities to ensure sustainability is at the heart of their offering. You can view the campaign film and download images, content and more to communicate widely across your own social media activity and marketing on our Digital Media Library.

With your fellow tourism businesses 

Sharing your story on becoming a more responsible, low carbon business with other businesses in your sector or destination will foster collaboration and ensure that we learn from each other so we can go faster and further in our collective journey to net zero. 

Find out more on how other businesses have taken positive steps to reduce their environmental impact at the Zero Waste Scotland’s Green Network for Businesses website. 

Further resources

Net Zero Nation

Across the nation, government, businesses, communities and individuals are working together to protect Scotland and our planet. The Net Zero Nation website brings together details about what net zero is, where Scotland is in its net zero journey and how businesses can be part of it.

  • Business resources: You’ll find resources that show where things stand as a nation and the aim for getting businesses involved, details of what the Scottish Government is doing in delivering a green recovery plus resources and links to further information. 'The Greener Business Guide', in particular, is a valuable resource with information on how to help your business be greener and achieve the net zero target. Read the guide.  
  • Toolkits: The site features campaign toolkits to show Scotland's solidarity and participation in responding to the global climate emergency. Each toolkit has social media posts and images as well as video assets so you can show your support for achieving net zero. 

Visit the Net Zero Nation website to find out more information and what resources are available.

Useful links

Find ways that you can make changes in your life at home, in your business and on the go. There’s a host of advice and support out there to help your business.