An independent report sponsored by BT has praised Scotland’s ambition for delivering sustainable development – but called for a more “joined up” approach between the UK’s regions and countries.
The report, which examined the sustainable development and other relevant strategies of every English region, Scotland and Wales, recommends better sharing of best practice and more integration across regional boundaries.
Despite the growing importance of sustainable development in national and regional politics, there is “little consistency in the way it is addressed”.
The Making Sustainability Real: A Challenge for Regions report, by the UK Centre for Economic and Environmental Development (CEED), states: “There is a real need to improve the way in which the experience gained from initiatives is shared and used to stimulate further good practice.”
The report says Scotland is currently developing policies which will place the country well ahead of most others in terms of aspirations and targets, citing the proposed 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 in the draft Climate Change Bill as one world-leading example.
But it highlights a concern that around the UK, information and communications technology (ICT) is “being surprisingly overlooked as a key enabler for sustainable development and should be re-assigned a higher priority” and be better integrated with policies in areas such as transport and energy.
“ICT has fallen significantly down the agenda of more recent strategies, largely as a result of the success of regional campaigns to promote access to broadband services. There is some interest in the role of ICT in reducing the need to travel, although only a few strategies make a clear link between ICT and sustainable development.”
Transport Scotland is described as “a notable exception”, which is recognised for developing the UK’s first comprehensive travel plan to take carbon emissions reduction as its starting point, underpinned by an ethos that “the greenest mile is a mile not travelled”.
Scotland is also hailed for actively promoting smart measures such as teleworking, leading to a higher proportion of teleworking than other UK regions (13.5 per cent compared to a UK average of 7.4 per cent).
UK-wide, the report says digital inclusion is not being covered as well as it was and, given the importance of ICT knowledge and skills to the economy and environment, it should have greater prominence in future strategies.
Brendan Dick, BT Scotland director, said: “We believe this report is a useful contribution to the debate on sustainable development. There are some excellent initiatives being undertaken in Scotland and other parts of the UK – but we must make sure that successful initiatives are taken up across the UK as a whole, not just in one region or area.
“BT knows from its own experience that ICT plays a vital role in sustainable development, significantly reducing travel and helping people achieve a good balance between work and home life. More than 10,000 BT people work from home and 64,000 more are equipped to work flexibly.
“Conferencing by phone and the internet is another major contributor to sustainability, last year saving at least 97,000 tonnes on BT’s carbon footprint and eliminating 860,000 face to face meetings. In our experience such use of ICT also boosts the bottom line, which is good news for businesses in the current financial climate.”
The report concludes that none of the regional strategies stand out as exemplary and calls for all blueprints to be “made more accessible by having a simpler, more structured layout” including:
key actions and lead responsibilities highlighted with timelines; more compelling success stories; clear links between the various different regional strategies; a common set of indicators and measures for sustainable development policy covering climate change in particular; regular public reviews of progress against targets.
It suggests communication between regions could be improved by initiatives such as an online directory of sustainable development case studies, policies and practices, and an annual UK-wide conference or roundtable.
Contact: BT Scotland
Phone: 0800 085 0660