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Highlands and Island enterprise, Powering Futures & Zero Waste Scotland

A shared understanding of sustainability and a shared passion for enabling change across the industry will benefit all of us as part of the RSE team. We can all use the knowledge gained within our day to day jobs. Especially as the next generation of leaders, this opportunity to work together and improve leadership/cooperation skills will really help in future career endeavours. – Leia Pol, sustainability graduate, Ross-shire Engineering

Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Zero Waste Scotland partnered with Powering Futures to run a challenge programme in the region where young people took on key sustainability challenges set by industry to come up with potential solutions.


In the final part of the programme, participants were joined by experts from different industries in the region to discuss how the solutions they had created in relation to those challenges could be taken forward.

Tourism Industry:

One of the challenges was on encouraging sustainable behaviour from tourist visiting the area. The discussion in the session with young people and experts led to these conclusions:

  • Tourists coming to the area often want to do the right thing, the key is in making communications about what that is clear to them.
  • To do this at scale it’s important that all partners align behind a simple set of consistent messages. Tourists coming to the region often stay in different places and explore different areas. If they see the same messages and guidance on behaviours, there is a greater chance that they will be able to adopt more sustainable behaviours.
  • There are a large number of smaller operators involved in the tourism industry in the Highlands. They also want to be able to do the right things, but often don’t have the time or expertise to explore what all of those could mean for their business. They would benefit from dedicated advisors to walk them through the process and help them to implement on a time scale that works for them. The more people that do this the more shared understanding would develop and the approaches would become more commonplace.

Housing Industry:

Another one of the challenges related to modular housing in the region. There is a housing shortage, and it is very difficult for young people in the region to get on to the housing ladder. The discussion in the session between young people and experts led to these conclusions:

  • For modular housing to be viable and to solve the problem of affordability in the region then it has to operate at scale. Pilot sites can work to prove the concept, but the price points won’t work unless the process itself can become a scaled operation.
  • One of the ways that it could be addressed and create additional benefits in the region is for dedicated manufacturing sites to become operational within the Highlands and Islands. At the sites the different panels and components that would be required could be manufactured and then transported to the relevant sites for building.
  • There are already a large number of experts in the region who are familiar with different building materials, and renewable technology. This local expertise and ability to add value to the economy is an exciting opportunity. What needs to happen is for these different groups to be able to coalesce and work together in a way that is mutually beneficial.

Additional Takeaway:

Sometimes there is a message that it is on young people to address the sustainability challenges we face going forward. This is an unfair and unreasonable ask of them. We have to all work together. However, what is very interesting in all of this is that young people provided the impetus and spark for these discussions to start and for actions to be identified. Perhaps there is a way to use their energy and the expertise of those more experienced in the different fields to create these solutions that will have a lasting impact.

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