How will we build a fairer, greener Scotland that enables businesses to contribute meaningfully towards climate change targets and sustainability goals? Big questions affecting businesses across the globe.

Before the pandemic, this challenge was a circle to be squared. Now the opportunity to “build back better” is one of the most compelling challenges of our economic recovery.

The pain caused by lock down is easing slowly. The impact on jobs, livelihoods, and our health continues, with localised lockdowns having to be put in place. We are still on a journey with no defined time when it will be over.

Yet through all the difficulty there have been some evidence of light shining through the dark days of the pandemic, with millions of acts of kindness, an abundance of neighbourliness and social solidarity. These leave an indelible mark on our communities and the businesses that serve them that will be intrinsic to our collective futures.

Many of those companies that will survive have already been forced to reshape their business models. Others are considering doing the same and looking towards a picture where our future is very different.

What is clear now, is that a future which is not powered by sustainable energy is, for most, unthinkable. But in order to achieve this, what we need – urgently – is a map of the road to net zero.

There is a need for more commercial opportunities for businesses to get engaged in the green agenda. Many small and medium sized businesses have the skills, expertise and absolute resilience to diversify into these “new opportunities” – but where are they? What do they look like? What do we need to do to grasp them?

The energy transition in Scotland and the UK will require assertive and substantial action from all of us. To match the scale of the challenge, significant investment is required, and we expect the Chancellor to make this a focus at the Spending Review in the Autumn.

As custodians of Scotland's abundant natural assets, we have many strengths on which to build in order to play a significant role in a green future. At the same time, the rural economy has been hit hard by the Covid-19 lockdown. Providing support and significant investment for forestry as well as new skills and agricultural practices can help deliver crucial new jobs in rural communities that will also contribute to a resilient and greener future for the whole of Scotland.

Everybody will need to play their role, including investors and policy makers. Business barriers must be removed, and solutions created to overcome rigid systems of thought. For example, incentivising circular behaviour through taxation and steering regulation towards practices that yield the highest value of waste and scarce materials would be a start.

Incentives alone will not support the transition. We will also be required to support jobs, education, health and well-being, and help to address inequalities among the parts of Scotland that have been most affected by the pandemic.

The phrase “just transition” is a reminder we must not damn those who live in less wealthy areas of the world to energy poverty. Likewise, at home, we must consider how the road to net zero affects those living in rural and urban areas. The achievement of transitioning to a low carbon economy must not come at the expense of those without easy access to public transport or that struggle to adapt to green initiatives.

Both Covid-19 and the climate emergency have exposed in different ways the fundamental lack of resilience in how we develop local economies There has been much talk about how we can “build back better”, but if we want a green recovery worthy of the name, it will mean confronting these underlying issues once and for all.

By identifying key sectors, and developing pipelines to reskill those facing unemployment, localities can replace lost jobs with ones that offer a just transition into the green economy. This work should be primarily realised through a new approach to local industrial strategies.

We must get the transition right and make it work across all sectors and regions of Scotland. What business needs to see now are concrete, practical solutions based on these ideals but with clear focus on the economic benefits which can be achieved.

Liz Cameron is chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce