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Published
February 26, 2017

A Force for Good

Now is the time for Scottish business to increase involvement in climate justice

Ian Marchant was Chief Executive of SSE plc, a leading UK energy utility company, for over 10 years until stepping down in the summer of 2013. Ian is also a former Chairman of Scotland’s 2020 Climate Delivery Group, the immediate past President of Energy Institute, former NED of Cyberhawk and former Chairman of the renewable energy firm, Infinis. 

Ian is currently Chairman of the Aberdeen-based, quoted energy services firm, John Wood Group, non-executive Chairman of the Edinburgh based tidal energy company, Nova Innovation Ltd and Chairman of Maggie’s Cancer Charity. He is also a Non executive director of Aggreko Plc, and through his company, Dunelm Energy, is advisor to Scottish Equity partners and a number of energy related companies such as Linknode. He is Chair of the Advisory Board for the Centre of Energy Policy at Strathclyde University, a visiting Professor with the business schools at Edinburgh and Durham universities as well as being a member of the Prince’s Council of the Duchy of Cornwall and the President of the Royal Zoological Society Scotland. 

Ian joined us on 21 February 2017 for a celebration event for the first phase of Scotland Lights up Malawi. Ian, along with our current Chair Lady Susan Rice, and other project partners including Keep Scotland Beautiful and SolarAid. Below, and inspired by this event, Ian shares his thoughts on how Scottish business can continue to play its part in developing awareness and supporting climate justice. 

I’ve always believed that, despite all the negative noise, business can be a force for good in our world and that business can both increase awareness of the issues society faces and help to mitigate the impact of those issues. This was one of the driving forces that led to the formation of Scotland’s 2020 Climate Group where both of these aspects came into play. Initially it was about giving politicians the confidence to set ambitious, stretch targets for emissions reduction and encouraging businesses to step up and do their bit.

When we look at the impact of climate change on society it becomes apparent that it disproportionately affects the most disadvantaged. This applies both in Scotland itself and globally. This is where climate justice comes in. Those least responsible for climate change will be most affected by it and have the least ability to deal with the consequences. Given Scotland’s well-known and historic links to Malawi it was obvious to us that this was the place to focus. And given Scotland’s growth and expertise in renewable energy this was sector to focus on.

We take reliable mains electricity for granted here in Scotland but for most people in Malawi the experience is completely different. They rely on fuel like kerosene or even burning grass to provide energy for their lighting. This entails costly risks to health and pollution levels, let alone the financial burden that it imposes on some of the poorest people on the planet. This is why Scotland Lights up Malawi or SLuM was born.

The vision is simple, enabling Scottish businesses and organisations to use their resources, both staff and financial, to help social enterprises in Malawi use business methods to increase the take-up of solar lighting. To give some specific examples where this can make a difference; funding and support for R&D and new product development; management and staff development; and helping to organise supply chains and potentially funding working capital requirements.

So as the Scottish Government commits to doubling its spend on international development now is the time for Scottish businesses to increase their involvement in this critical area of climate justice. SLuM stands ready to help.