SCOTLAND has a goal of reaching Net Zero by 2045, but one company is aiming to do its bit within the next three years.

See Change, specialists in project sponsorship, transport consultancy and sponsor training and coaching, is looking for land in order to facilitate offsetting its carbon emissions, with a view to bringing that offset down to zero by 2030.

Chief executive Carol Deveney founded the company three years ago after a career spent working in urban regeneration. “My career over the last couple of decades has been focused on projects that are environmentally sustainable, so to then run a business that didn’t have that at its very core would have been, frankly, bizarre to me,” she said.

Despite the challenges of the worldwide pandemic, the company has grown to three full time staff, four associates and two freelance consultants. “You have to do the work that adds value to the world, that’s a core value of the business. So from the beginning we decided we wouldn’t work on projects to extract fossil fuel or with any clients involved in arms and defence systems.

“We don’t work with any new nuclear projects. We will take the short term financial disadvantage to do the right thing sustainably. Most of our clients are in the public sector, so they’ve usually got an expenses policy that says anyone working for them on a consultancy basis has to use the cheapest mode of travel.

“That would mean if I had to go from Glasgow to London for a meeting, an EasyJet or Ryanair flight would be cheapest in terms of the price, but I know that actually, that’s the most costly for the environment. So we always do domestic travel by rail, and if it means we have to subsidise the difference, then we will actually just discount that short term financial loss because we look at the whole life cost to the environment.”

It’s a policy which has proved popular with clients, who are often bound by public sector regulations. It builds the trust that See Change is living its values and also delivering better value for money in the long term.

This attitude to financial cost versus the cost to the planet is something that permeates every part of Carol’s business.

Most public sector projects have to deliver value to the taxpayer, so changing the focus to the cost over the lifetime of the project is something See Change builds into its consultancy. “If you want to see the model shift, you’ve really got to think of it the carbon emissions cost and the cost to people too,” Carol said.

She advocates reviewing commitments on a monthly basis. The plan is to be a net zero company within a few years and any carbon they haven’t reduced will be offset by planting their own woodland. By 2030 the plan is to reduce that offset down to zero as well.

With the restrictions on travel during the pandemic, everyone had to find a way to work remotely and this has had long-lasting effects on business practices.

The need to print documents and use volumes of paper for meetings has almost disappeared and Carol has also invested in tablets to further reduce the need for paper. But it’s not just about reducing resources. “I think one of the things that we do is that we actually work with other businesses in smaller communities,” Carol said.

“For me sustainability is about the fitness of the local economy.” A donation of £1000 to a local school helped fund outdoor learning equipment to allow the children to spend more time outdoors where there was less risk of spreading Covid. Another donation went to the crowdfunding campaign for a gin distillery on Millport called ‘Nostalgin’, because it was founded by an all-female team who were trying to raise funds to support the campaign to save Millport’s historic Town Hall building. Seeing the company name on a plaque on the wall inspired Carol to get involved further and the company plans to support plans to release new gin products.

The end goal is to deliver long term change through the consultancy See Change undertakes. Working mainly on transport projects means there is usually already an appetite for sustainability to be a priority, but often the company helps them to think beyond the obvious.

“One of the things we encourage them to think about is how they can include marginalised groups in the design process,” Carol explained. “The big thing we get people to think about is actually how do you make your policies and drive your sustainability, rather than just having a sustainability policy that you then try and apply to everything. The big push we have is asking questions in your supply chain, because at the top end of the supply chain, it is mandated by clients. I know from years working with big organisations in the UK, the US and Canada that your supply chain will respond to demands – and if you turn a blind eye, they will accept that too.”

“It’s more than just seeing reduce, reuse, recycle, you have to look at it much deeper, and people are generally open to that, it's really quite rewarding. You have to see these are things that would lead to more sustainable outcomes for you. Not that many people actually come out to work, especially in the public sector, and don’t want to do good work and don’t want to see a better world in some way.”

Where See Change tries to encourage the change is by giving practical examples which have worked in other projects. When clients are presented with an option which is tried and tested with successful outcomes, they find it easier to adopt. “With a transport client we’ll say, if you’re creating a new station, you might want to think about how people could use active travel to get to that station. “Or in cases of excavation, we will find uses for that soil within the wider project, rather than paying a lot of money to dump that soil. It costs the client less and it’s more sustainable. It’s common sense, really.”

HeraldScotland: See Change aims to assist the positive culture shift in the transport sector by advising on how to build more sustainablySee Change aims to assist the positive culture shift in the transport sector by advising on how to build more sustainably

Project sponsors put public sector on the right tracks

ENSURING a positive environmental impact assessment for a project is a goal for many public sector projects, and having a project sponsor can be an effective solution.

It’s a different proposition from a project manager, whose role is to manage the time, cost and quality of a project. A project sponsor is there to manage the governance, the funding and the stakeholders, and is often more focused on the benefits of outcomes, rather than the outcomes themselves.

See Change is the only specialist sponsor trainer and coach in the UK and has also introduced the concept to the Canadian market. “Part of my remit before I started See Change was the environmental impact assessment of a major rail project, and that's when my interest really got sparked,” Carol explained. “I qualified as an environmental management assessor, and just got really interested in actually getting into these projects, the ways you can just make things more sustainable during the delivery as well as by the outcome. It used to be that building a railway was seen as a sustainable project in itself, but now, as an industry, people are starting to realise actually, the way you build can be even more sustainable.”

While many of these practices are becoming the norm there is a culture change underway. “I remember with one project we did for Borders railway, the number one story on the BBC news website that week was the work we were doing to protect bats,” she said. “It was funny because the exciting news for us on the project was all about the viaducts and all the work we were delivering, but from the public’s perspective they were much more interested in how we were managing sustainably the ecology. “That was a big lesson for me, as a project sponsor. If you care about it, and you make sure that it’s part of what the project team has to deliver, then it will happen because you’re the client, really, to the project teams.”

The need for a specialist sponsor training organisation became clear when Carol was buying the service as head of professional sponsorship and looking to develop individuals. All she could find were behavioural trainers, no one specialised in the area. Following a period working in Canada, she returned to Scotland and established the company she had always been looking for. It appears to have been a good move as the demand for See Change sponsorship training has been consistently high. “It’s a self-employed person’s nightmare – you never want to turn down work, but you only want to take on what you can deliver at a really high quality,” Carol joked.

“It’s part of building a sustainable business. We only work with associates and staff that we trust, and that can deliver quality. We’re having to ask people to wait until we have space.” In order to scale the business, Carol is working on a digital version of the product to allow her to train people online in bigger groups, rather than one-to-one. There are also plans to increase the headcount in the company.

“We've just taken on an apprentice graphic designer last year and we have two kickstart positions coming up which will hopefully become apprenticeship positions,” she said. “If you can ever create entry level jobs for people, that's a huge part of economic recovery and sustainability. I wish more small businesses knew that you’re never too small to make a difference. We are happy to share with people our experiences if they’re interested.”