Aberdeen has the opportunity to “pivot” itself to a leading position as Europe’s energy capital and is ready to embrace the challenge.
That is according to Bob Ruddiman, head of energy at law firm Burness Paull, who was speaking at The Press & Journal Business Breakfast yesterday (July 1).
The event, held in association with Burness Paull, focused on the hot topic of environmental, social, and governance (ESG).
A trio of speakers delivered their thoughts and expertise on the subject and how the north-east can be at the forefront of change.
Mr Ruddiman was the first speaker up. He believes UN sustainability development goals are critical, with three of particular interest.
Energy transition is a journey
They are to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns, and to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impact.
Mr Ruddiman described these goals as the north of Scotland’s “home fixture”, adding: “Taking these points I think we can have a huge influence on that and shape the global agenda.
Energy transition is a journey and we are going to need to keep accelerating on that journey.”
Bob Ruddiman, Burness Paull head of energy
“When we look at the specifics of the north-east of Scotland, and our readiness to meet the challenges of ESG and energy transition, I’d argue that we are ready but I don’t think we can move fast enough.
“Energy transition is a journey and we are going to need to keep accelerating on that journey.
‘It’ll take a lot of hard work’
“When I look at Aberdeen it prided itself on its role as Europe’s oil and gas capital and rightly so but we have the opportunity now to pivot to a leading position as an energy capital. That will need to be earned and it’ll take a lot of hard work.”
Mr Ruddiman was followed by Bettina Edmonston, global investment director at Saracen Fund Managers.
Saracen is a boutique fund management business, based in Edinburgh, with more than £100 million assets under management.
It was recently acquired by AssetCo, the new asset management vehicle of north-east entrepreneur Martin Gilbert.
New technologies and funding should be encouraged
Ms Edmonston said the business has no exclusion lists and invested in all sectors including oil and gas and tobacco.
She added: “Ideally, we would really like to have a world where we don’t rely on fossil fuels anymore and nobody smokes, but that’s not going to happen overnight.
“New technologies have to developed and investment is needed to bring them to the market.”
She highlighted the backing Saracen has given to tobacco company Philip Morris International, which is one of its investments – to launch its electric tobacco heating system IQOS.
This was after carrying out multiple meetings and discussions with management to understand the functionality of the device and its benefit to consumers.
Ms Edmonston said: “We don’t exclude certain sectors from our investment universe.
“It’s important to realise companies that try to improve their role receive financial support for their strategy.
“There are companies where we have done our due diligence and decided it’s not worth investing, due to the reluctancy of the management to change or the cost would be too high.”
OGTC change ‘a statement of intent”
Last up was Gary Wright, a chartered financial planner from Carbon Financial Partners who highlighted around £300 billion-worth of assets looked after by financial advisors in the UK.
Mr Wright said: “The aspect that makes the most headlines in the north-east, where the economy is highly geared to the fortunes of the energy sector, is the environmental piece.
“Of all the industries, that’s the one that many sustainable strategies wrestle with on whether to include or exclude companies. It is very much an industry in transition.”
Mr Wright also praised the move by the Oil and Gas Technology Centre to rename itself the Net Zero Technology Centre, saying it felt like a “real statement of intent”.
The live event was recorded and can be watched in its entirety here.