It is clear from the protests across Scotland and around the world that public demand for greater action on the climate emergency is growing.

But while more and more people and businesses know they need to change and genuinely want to do the right thing, too few know what that should be.

And too many still wrongly fear that saving the planet will come at a hefty cost to their lifestyles or the profit margins of the companies they run or work for.

Ask anyone what they think they should do to play their part in fighting the climate crisis and chances are they will say something like ‘fly less’ or perhaps ‘buy local’.

But while both of those things could undoubtedly help, the single most effective way for consumers and industry alike to dramatically cut the carbon emissions driving up global warming is this:

We need to kick our huge consumption habit.

Around four fifths of Scotland’s carbon footprint is caused by the heat and electricity needed to grow, make, process, transport and provide the vast amount of goods and materials which we produce and consume as a nation.

Our collective appetite for cheap, throwaway everyday purchases has grown beyond all recognition in recent times. We are now at a point where while once we just talked of fast food, we are now all too familiar with the rise of fast fashion as well.

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The main driver for the high environmental costs of the way we shop is the rising numbers of products we purchase which are manufactured abroad and imported, generating a greater carbon footprint through the way they are made and the distances they must be transported to reach our homes and businesses.

That sounds like a big problem, and it is. But it is also a major opportunity for Scottish businesses to significantly reduce the nation’s carbon emissions - and meet public demand to combat the climate emergency - by switching to more sustainable ways of producing and supplying products.

Some are already reaping the benefits, economically and environmentally, of doing just that.

But many firms and organisations wrongly assume that reducing the cost to the planet means increasing costs for them.

As we have and will continue to make clear, there are significant savings and profits to be made by joining the circular economy where goods and materials are kept in use for as long as possible through reuse, re-manufacture and repair before eventually being recycled.

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Making the best use of our limited resources is not bad for business, it is good for business.

Some may also question the need to change our lifestyles or business models given the real success which Scotland has had in de-carbonising our energy thanks to the Scottish Government’s pioneering renewables policies.

The world-leading drive pushing a nationwide switch from fossil fuels to green alternatives such as wind and tidal turbines has significantly reduced the carbon impact of our energy use.

But while the results are extremely valuable and welcome, they will not be enough on their own to address the climate emergency when the majority of the nation’s carbon emissions are caused by our vast demand for raw materials to make everyday products.

This constant craving is not only driving up carbon emissions.

Extracting ever more of our precious but limited resources from the ground is also causing a host of related environmental issues including deforestation, habitat and species loss, water shortages and plastic pollution.

So, by committing to reducing our reliance on raw materials and remaking items so that they can be used again and again, businesses will not only significantly reduce global carbon emissions, they will also help to prevent wider environmental damage.

Tackling our consumption habit doesn’t mean that everyone should stop buying things.

It means we must radically change the way we think about and consume our goods and materials to maximise their value for us and the planet.

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And to do that we need to accelerate our progress towards a circular economy.

Today I am launching Zero Waste Scotland’s corporate plan setting out how we will lead this work, building on our past successes by making Scotland a truly circular nation.

One of the most useful tools we have is our ground-breaking Carbon Metric system for assessing the causes and consequences of our emissions, which has consistently shown that the vast majority are generated through the production, consumption and waste of materials and products.

As we move forward, we need to expand our existing collaborations with businesses nationwide to find and share innovative, new ways to make the most of what we have.

The pressure is on all businesses in every sector to take a long, hard look at how they produce, consume and dispose of everyday items too.

And those which don’t act now to adapt and meet growing public pressure risk being left behind, as their competitors pioneer sustainable business models.

Scotland was once at the forefront of the industrial revolution.

Since the turn of the 21st century we have been leading the world’s renewables revolution. Now we must pioneer a circular economy revolution to safeguard the future of people, wildlife and the planet for generations to come.