As with many of us I’m sure, I have become increasingly concerned about the impact of global warming, and with the wider ecological challenges that our lifestyles are having on our planet. I feel a strong sense of responsibility, that we must act now to address these challenges for our own sake and for the sake of future generations. This responsibility falls on us all as individuals, and many have already started changing aspects of their lives to reduce their individual impact. The choices we make in what we buy, what we consume, and the companies we use to deliver services is a key part of the change required. It is clear the role of governments and of all the companies that make up our economy will be crucial in meeting our de-carbonisation goals.

With this challenge, and obligation in mind, the Student Loans Company (SLC) recognise the importance of aligning our business values, purpose and strategy with the needs of our organisation, while ensuring we embed responsible and ethical principles into everything we do.

In September, I was delighted to announce that we have signed an agreement to lease a new state of the art office in Glasgow city centre. The purpose-built site, ready from 2023, will help us achieve our net zero carbon ambitions and enable us to become BREEAM Excellent, which means we’ll be included in the top 10% of buildings for sustainability. Powered from sustainable sources, the all-electric building will significantly reduce our environmental impact.

SLC is also committed to embedding sustainable procurement by ensuring we meet our needs for goods, services and utilities in a way that not only achieves value for money, but delivers benefits to society and the economy, while minimising damage to the environment.

We introduced the facility for students to electronically sign their applications and this alone has led to a significant reduction in paper, waste and cost – our pre-assessment teams no longer receive, open and scan circa 1.7m online declarations. This simple, yet important change has improved the customer experience by making the application process easier and more efficient while also helping us to minimise our impact on the environment. We will take this further as we develop our paperless proposition as part of our transformation programme, Evolve, over the coming year.

We are determined to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible across our estate. In my directorate, Technology Group, we recycle our legacy IT equipment through a fully SEPA licenced organisation and we similarly recycle surplice furniture and equipment in our Estates team.

As a public body delivering services to customers across the four nations of the UK, SLC is fully committed to leading by example and playing our part in the preservation of natural resources and in preventing environmental pollution. But we can and must do more, and so from the next financial year, SLC will set its own targets to ensure we continue to support progress towards the UK’s net zero targets.

The eyes of the world are on Glasgow as it hosts the COP26 climate conference. At SLC, we are committed to building a cleaner, more sustainable organisation – better for the environment, better for customers and better for us.