Global Footprint:
We are responsible global citizens with a sustainable international footprint

Last updated: 11 January 2024

This outcome is about adapting to live within the Earth’s sustainable limits, and ensuring that the overseas impact of Scotland’s consumption is sustainable.

Here we report three initial indicators that help us to monitor progress towards this outcome: the global environmental impact of Scotland’s consumption, waste managed in Scotland, and sustainability of fish stocks. The indicators reveal the gains that are being made in the management of fish stocks, alongside the significant challenges that remain to reduce Scottish exports of waste. We are exploring other indicators to measure the environmental impacts of Scotland’s consumption.

In Scotland, we consume goods and products that have been sourced from all over the world. Some commodities are associated with environmental damage in the countries where they are produced, including deforestation and water stress - contributing to climate change, biodiversity loss and impacts on local communities. For instance, NatureScot’s 2019 report on Scotland's progress towards the 2020 Aichi biodiversity targets highlights that some feedstuffs used in Scottish aquaculture and livestock farming include the heavily-exploited Peruvian anchoveta, and crops such as soya beans which may be associated with tropical deforestation.

We aim to ensure that waste generated in Scotland is treated responsibly and not exported to other countries. However, against a backdrop of rising waste volumes, some waste is exported to England and other countries, and in certain circumstances this may be the most responsible form of treatment, for example allowing recycling elsewhere as opposed to landfilling in Scotland.

Fish stocks are a shared international resource and ensuring sustainability of our own stocks will benefit us globally and also encourage sustainable fishing elsewhere. While there have been recent increases in the proportion of fish stocks that are fished sustainably, nearly half are still overexploited.

Global environmental impact of Scotland’s consumption

Living within the planet’s sustainable limits will require us to reduce our consumption of the world’s resources. An indicator of Scotland’s water footprint is currently under development. Our carbon and material footprints are described in the Climate and Resources outcomes.

Options for indicators to understand and track the overseas environmental impact of our consumption in Scotland are being considered.

Percentage of Scotland’s waste managed in Scotland

Indicator Updated: 11 January 2024

Headline: The majority of Scotland's waste is managed in Scotland, but more than 10% is exported.

Source: SEPA. Data for this chart can be downloaded from the Data Source page.

This indicator reports for each type of treatment (recycled, recovered or disposed), the annual amount of Scotland’s waste managed in Scotland by volume and as a percentage of Scottish waste managed anywhere. Recovered waste is used for fuel and energy generation. Disposed waste includes waste landfilled or disposed by incineration. Find out more about the percentage of Scotland’s waste managed in Scotland indicator.

The proportion of Scottish waste managed in Scotland as a percentage of Scottish waste managed anywhere has decreased from 90.3% in 2011 to 87.7% in 2021. The percentage of Scottish waste recycled in Scotland as a percentage of Scottish waste recycled anywhere has oscillated but not significantly increased since 2011. We continue to export over 10% of waste tonnage to be managed elsewhere. Please note that data is not available for 2019 and 2020. Please see the Technical Hub for details.

Sustainability of fish stocks

Indicator Updated: 04 November 2021

Headline: There are ongoing improvements in the amount of commercial fish stocks fished at sustainable levels, although the rate of improvement has slowed.

Source: Sustainability of fish stocks indicator from National Performance Framework website.. Data for this chart can be downloaded from the Data Source page.

This National Statistics indicator reports the percentage of Scottish fish stocks each year which are fished sustainably i.e. fished at or below the level at which the fish are able to replenish themselves, without stocks being depleted. Find out more about the sustainability of fish stocks indicator.

In 2020, an estimated 69% of commercial fish stocks were fished at sustainable levels in Scottish waters. The percentage fished sustainably in 2020 is the highest level recorded since this data collection began in 1991 and demonstrates the ongoing recovery of the commercial fish stocks.

Although further progress is needed, the improved management of commercial fisheries is a clear and positive trend. However the picture across a wider range of fish species is varied as can be seen in the detailed reporting in Scotland’s Marine Assessment 2020.