Apple charger recycling and low-carbon ports: The sustainability success stories of the week

Published every week, this series charts how businesses and sustainability professionals are working to achieve their ‘Mission Possible’ across the campaign’s five key pillars – energy, resources, infrastructure, mobility and sustainability leadership.

Across the UK and across the world, leading businesses, cities, states and regions are turning environmental ambitions into action. Here, we round up five positive sustainability stories from this week.

ENERGY: ScottishPower opens scheme to help ease workers back into the energy sector


Delivering the UK’s targets to significantly expand clean energy capacity will require an ever-growing base of skilled workers. One such target is growing offshore wind capacity nationally to 50GW by the end of the decade.

To help avoid a potential green skills gap, ScottishPower – which operates more than 40 wind projects – has opened an employment programme for those looking to rejoin the energy sector after a career break from any field relating to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

The ‘Returner’ programme is a year-long paid placement under which candidates can refresh their industry knowledge, rebuild confidence and start to build up their sector-specific skills. It is open for all business functions, from engineering to marketing.

Applications will be welcomed for the scheme until 1 December.

RESOURCES: musicMagpie to recycle redundant Apple lightning cables


The EU is mandating that all electronic devices sold within the bloc from 2024 use a USB-charger. This change is intended to reduce e-waste generated by the need for each home and business to have a selection of different chargers.

In the long term, the result is likely to be waste reduction. But, in the coming months, there are concerns that there will be a spike in the discarding of Apple ‘lightning’ cables as people upgrade to new products launched in September. It is estimated that one-quarter of European residents own an iPhone.

With that in mind, resale platform musicMagpie will accept old Apple cables with any trade-in until the end of November. The collected cables will be reused if possible or, if not, recycled. Customers do not need to trade in an Apple product to take advantage of the service.

The retailer is making shoppers aware that putting cables in household bins will likely see them ending up in landfill, where component materials like zinc, copper and microplastics can leach into the environment.

MOBILITY: Peel Ports Group slashes operational emissions by one-third


More than 90% of all UK international trade is conducted through ports, making the decarbonisation of shipping and of port operations a challenging yet crucial part of the nation’s net-zero transition.

It is welcome news, then, that Peel Ports Group has posted a 32% reduction in its Scope 1 (operational) and Scope 2 (power-related) emissions since 2020. It has accredited this progress to efficiency improvement, transitioning 97% of the Group’s vehicle fleet to electric models and transitioning from diesel to biofuels for other equipment.

Peel Ports Group’s chief executive Claudio Veritiero called the progress a “stepping stone” on the businesses’ journey to net-zero Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2040.

The business is also aiming to measure its indirect (Scope 3) emissions by the end of 2023 and publicly set a reduction target next year. From there, it will create a port-specific climate plan for each location. Its ports include Liverpool, Dublin and Heysham.

THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT: ‘Smart Building Rating’ proposed for UK to bolster energy efficiency


Debate has been lively in recent years around whether the UK’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) scheme is fit for purpose, given that it does not always reflect the real-world, operational energy efficiency of a building. Considering this, and with the Government off-track to deliver an aim for all homes to rank EPC grade ‘C’ or higher by 2035, there have been many calls for change.

This week, Octopus Energy’s Centre for Net-Zero and the Energy Systems Catapult debuted proposals for a new Smart Building Rating (SBR) and recommendations for the design of a reformed EPC. An SBR would rank buildings on how much flexibility they could provide to the grid by shifting energy use times or discharging energy from assets like electric vehicles (EVs) or battery storage systems. This would link to the National Grid’s plans to expand demand-side flexibility to ease the energy transition and price crisis.

Organisations supporting the new SBR proposals include Energy Saving Trust, the UK Green Building Council and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

The Centre for Net-Zero’s chief executive Lucy Yu said: “Flexibility is not optional; it is essential to a net-zero energy system.

“Whilst it comes in many forms, consumer flexibility is the lowest-cost way of keeping supply and demand in balance – but the current landscape is not conducive to rapidly scaling it. The SBR is designed to confront this challenge head-on, ensuring that we can unlock the benefits that a flexible energy system affords – from cheaper bills to cleaner, more secure energy.”

SUSTAINABILITY LEADERSHIP: 1,800 professionals ask UK Government for greater green focus


Ben Tolhurst (left) with Chris Skidmore MP (right)

As the week began, Chris Skidmore MP hand-delivered a letter signed by more than 1,800 business leaders to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. The letter stated that the private sector is looking to the Government for greater climate and nature leaderships – not rollbacks or delays like those announced in recent weeks.

Signatories include former Unilever chief executive Paul Polman, COOK’s chief executive Rosie Brown, Triodos Bank UK’s chief executive Dr Bevis Watts and Ecotricity’s owner Dale Vince.

The letter was coordinated by Business Declares, hot on the heels of the organisation’s ‘Queue for Climate and Nature’ in London. This event united 300 professionals on Millenium Bridge, calling on the Government to phase out fossil fuels, rapidly scale clean energy and better protect nature.

At the Queue, Business Declares’ director Ben Tolhurst said: “I fully understand how businesspeople feel nervous about speaking out in case they get in trouble with their bosses, or in case their company’s brands are not happy.

“But, at the end of the day, we are in an existential crisis.

“It is time to be bold. It is time to be courageous. It is time to put the awkwardness away and speak out because, if not now – when?”

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