Green business

As the capital of Scotland and one of our economic engine-rooms Edinburgh does have to look at the big picture but that can lead the Economy Committee, on which I sit, to discussions that are, at times, a bit abstract.

So it is always a delight to think about some of the businesses in my own back yard. Last week I tweeted about the wonderful people at Vegware, in Polwarth and the latest accolade picked up from the Federation of Small Businesses, from their work producing compostable packaging for the catering industry.

What I love about Vegware is that it is making a viable business and employing more people out of doing the right thing. My only fear is that its success will lead it to outgrow the humble location of Polwarth!

And so too with another business I popped in to see last week.  Edinburgh Computer Services (ECS) has its office behind an unassuming door just off East Harrison Park.  As a company servicing the ICT needs of other businesses, its staff are out and about in vans a lot.  Until recently its fleet was diesel vans but over the last few months it has taken on a fully electric van and another has been ordered.

Now, I have mixed feelings about electric vehicles as a whole.  If we replaced every single oil-fired car with an electric one would our traffic problems be over? No! Simply changing the technology tackles serious issues like localised air pollution but leaves unaddressed other problems like congestion, safety and land-take for roads and parking.  But for those services that need mobility, from plumbers to ambulances, it makes sense to have low carbon equivalents and it is pleasing to see other councils like South Lanarkshire Council striking out in the right direction.

My initial contact with ECS was last summer when the director, William Fairhurst, contacted me to raise the lack of vehicle charging points in Edinburgh compared to Glasgow.  Since then, he has had a charging point installed with support from the Energy Savings Trust.  This allows his vans to go out all day and then get charged up at the end of the day.

The key thing is that this is no romantic environmentalism.  It is a decision based on the needs of the business.  At current prices the electric vans will work out cheaper than the diesel vans within 4 years.  As purchase prices narrow and oil prices rise the case will become stronger.

What public policy needs to do is create the environment which makes it easier for businesses as well as individuals to make the right choices.  More than that is needed, of course, but more power to those who do make forward-looking choices!