My Column

Eco Moves musnt be half baked

  • Date: Monday 13th January 2020
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Whether for ethical, monetary or a shrewd combination of both reasons, more and more businesses these days are going ever greener.

A recent study has shown a staggering 80% of UK shoppers admit they are now consciously buying more eco-friendly produce, so it’s no surprise that retailers are responding in kind. Greggs made huge waves with the introduction of their vegan sausage rolls in 2019, recording their most profitable year ever, and are now looking to step it up again with their new vegan steakbakes.

Environmental concerns are so at the forefront of the public’s mind that another survey, conducted by Barclaycard this time, found well over half (62%) of UK shoppers said they would make fewer Boxing Day purchases as a direct result. Fast fashion being the biggest offender in people’s minds with seven in ten shoppers saying they would avoid purchasing what they saw as “cheap clothes” entirely.

Now the majority of the Scottish public aren’t vegan or even vegetarian and it’s not like we’ve had the Green Party in control of Holyrood for years, but something is changing in people’s mindsets and it’s fascinating to watch how businesses react.

Make no mistake, ethical consumer spending is big business these days and as far as I’m concerned it’s been a long time coming. 20 years ago, the UK spent a mere £11.2bn whereas now we’re looking at an altogether healthier (in many ways) figure of £41.1bn. Adopting a more environmentally-aware attitude doesn’t mean consumers will spend less. In fact, it can often be quite the opposite, so there’s nothing to fear from a commercial perspective as the times change around us.

All of this might sound impressive and it is, to an extent, but we’ve a long way to go.  Companies from the smallest of start-ups to the major corporations are reflecting the changing attitudes and priorities of their customers, but it’s not all one-way traffic and neither should it be.

We as business owners have a responsibility to promote and offer solutions as much as we do a responsibility to live up to our customers’ demands and expectations. Ethics aside, that’s just good business, so I’m always surprised to see certain companies failing to read the room and needlessly falling behind.

If anything, there’s a wealth of opportunity opening up as the more wasteful side of commerce slowly disappears under a mountain of one-use plastic. As proven by Greggs, ethical food and drink has huge crossover potential and everything from organic and free-trade produce to vegetarian, plant-based and free-range goods are becoming more and more popular with consumers who don’t necessarily tick all the boxes one might have expected only a few years ago.

Similarly, it seems that nobody wants to see unnecessary plastics wrapping their goods anymore, only to sit on a landfill for the next 1000 years, so a huge company like Co-Op announcing that by the end of this summer they will have completely have phased them out is huge.

The interesting thing for me is that there’s so many reasons and justifications for both consumers and companies to get with the environmental programme. Ethical consumerism can take many forms, from families just replacing certain items for better options, through to complete lifestyle changes, while on the business side we are seeing more and more start-ups coming from an environmentally-conscious angle while more established names jump on the bandwagon.

The thing is, it doesn’t really matter what anyone’s motivation is when it comes to this kind of thing, as its actions themselves that really count. We all need to think about what we consume as well as what we produce and while the main priority is leaving the planet in a healthy condition for our children, there’s a wealth of business opportunities emerging every day, so there’s really no excuse for companies not to get on board.


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I’m always on the lookout for the next big thing and financial technology has certainly caught my attention over the past year.

Fintech as it is more commonly known, is seeing a real upsurge within the finance industry and the growing trend seeing no signs of stopping.

Consumer use of Monzo or Plum, mobile banking apps that help manage your spending, savings and bills, has grown into the millions and its set to continue.

As the public become more aware of the benefits of using financial technology and its ease of use - fintech startups are in a great position to reap the rewards.

Only last week FinTech Scotland, a joint initiative by a number of financial services firms, University of Edinburgh, Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise, announced that the number of innovative fintech SMEs based in Scotland has grown by over 60 per cent from 72 to 119 over the last twelve months.

It is great to see Scotland embracing this new trend of reinventing financial services and we are producing some excellent startups.

A great start-up that caught my eye is Monily. Based in Edinburgh, Monily boasts that it will save customers time and money by providing secure cards and services to ensure they never overpay for purchases, can get rid of unwanted goods and cancel unused subscriptions.

Ensuring peace of mind that you are receiving refunds for items you have returned is ideal, especially just after the festive season when we have likely splurged on a number of unwanted or unsuitable gifts.

Monily is a fantastic concept and I certainly see the company going from strength to strength for 2020 as it rides the fintech wave. Watch this space.


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I laughed when I read that Prince Charles former school has banned mobile phones in a hope to improve social skills.

Gordonstoun, in Elgin, has taken the radical step to encourage pupils to interact with each other face to face, rather than staring at their phones.

Young people should be tech savvy, with these skills imperative to our future work force. However, I’m sure this enforced digital detox will have lasting benefits to the pupils.

The ban is having a positive effect too, with the head teacher, Lisa Kerr, stating that there has been a big increase in noise levels between classes.

They may not be laughing at the latest viral video, but creating lasting memories and jokes with their pals will stand them in good stead for the future.

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It was sad to see that the number of working teenagers has almost halved in the last 20 years.

A report from the Resolution Foundation, a think-tank focused on improving the living standards for those on low to middle incomes, revealed a quarter of 16 and 17-year-olds were in work between 2017 and 2019 - falling from 48% in 1997-99.

Reasons included young people keen to focus primarily on their studies or the difficulty to find a job as soon as they leave education.

A Saturday job is an ideal way to introduce young people to many life skills that they wouldn’t necessarily learn in school. Time management, team work, problem solving and more. All important abilities to do well in life.

The figures are certainly worrying, but hopefully this can be turned around.


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