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How Project Heather could help enable Scotland’s Energy Transformation

As delegates at the “Scotland’s Energy Transformation” event discovered, Project Heather has the potential to play a key part in putting sustainability, carbon reporting, and oil and gas diversification at the heart of Scotland’s business agenda.

The breakfast event – hosted by the ICAEW Energy & Natural Resources Community, in partnership with ICAEW Scotland – took place in June in Edinburgh and explored the growing trend towards investing in sustainability and the value of carbon reporting.

A new exchange for a new generation

As CEO and Founder of Project Heather Tomás Carruthers explained, Project Heather – which is set to launch around the end of 2019 – is the working title for the proposed new Scottish Stock Exchange.

Project Heather will be the first Scottish Stock Exchange since the Glasgow trading floor of the old exchange closed in 1973, bringing to an end a part of Scotland’s history that could be traced back to 1844.

The new Scottish Stock Exchange will be built on the principles of raising capital for issuers that have a positive impact on society and the environment, and will play a key role in sustainable economic growth in Scotland – and beyond.

A natural fit

As Tomás explained, in July 2015, Scotland became one of the first countries in the world to adopt the UN’s Global Goals for Sustainable Development, making it a good fit as a location for Project Heather. He explored the idea that a social stock exchange would play a part in realising those goals, and the idea that both stakeholders and potential employees increasingly consider a company’s social and environmental impact when deciding whether to work with them. “Impact is no longer the ‘nice little extra’ it was five years ago – it’s something that people expect to be part of a company’s plan, not something they achieve by accident,” he said.

New opportunities

As highlighted in a Scottish Enterprise Oil & Gas Diversification Opportunities report, which examined the potential of Offshore Wind, “There are high levels of synergy between the offshore wind and oil and gas supply chains, particularly in the areas of project management, array cables, substations, foundations, installation support, and operations & maintenance”. A factor that Tomás feels qualifies many energy firms, particularly those diversifying into sustainable energy, to work with the new Exchange.

Why carbon reporting is good for business

Expanding on the idea that strong environmental credentials count, Will Richardson, CEO and Founder of Green Element, talked delegates through the benefits of carbon reporting. He highlighted the fact that many existing regulations require companies to do some degree of carbon reporting, and explored the idea that going beyond the basic requirements was good for business, and that accountants were ideally placed to help facilitate this. Will also explored the idea that within just 11 years climate change will become irreversible, and the importance of Project Heather in that context.

Exploring the issues

The event concluded with a roundtable discussion, facilitated by Edwin Hamilton, CFO and Company Secretary of Project Heather and member of the ICAEW Energy & Natural Resources Community Advisory Group.

Among the topics discussed were how carbon off-setting fits into carbon reporting; the opportunities that initiatives such as Project Heather open up for accountants; the idea that investors should focus on sustainable growth, not exit strategies; and why investors increasingly value sustainable as well as financial metrics.

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