Climate change is our biggest challenge and reducing our impact on the planet is at the heart of everything we do. The risks posed by rising sea levels, flood risk and more unstable weather patterns are very real challenges for us.

Find out what we are doing now and the changes we are making to tackle the causes of climate change and ensure the Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB) operates in a more sustainable manner.

Take a look at our Corporate Sustainability Policy for more information.

Corporate Sustainability Policy


In response to the Climate Emergency, we are driving towards making NLB Net Zero Carbon and all of our activities sustainable as soon as practicable.


We have always maintained a high level of commitment to minimising the impact of our operations on the environment. Our response to the Climate Emergency is firmly embedded within our Mission, Vision and Strategic Focus. With around 95% of UK’s imports and exports moving by sea, safe sea lanes are vital to the prosperity of the country and the protection of the marine environment.

In 2021, in partnership with Zero Waste Scotland, we published our Carbon Management Plan. The plan sets out our strategy and lists in detail the actions that will help us meet our carbon reduction objectives to becoming a net carbon zero organisation.

Carbon Management Plan

Our carbon footprint is dominated by our vessel fuel consumption. We have identified other key areas of carbon emissions too, which, if tackled, will help to reduce our carbon footprint. We have adopted a 3 phased approach to achieving net zero:


NLB AtoN estate


NLB offices and Oban base facilities


NLB vessels and marine operations


We have successfully used solar energy at our lighthouses for over 30 years and have converted all our statutory navigational buoys to solar power. Despite the fact we are operating in locations that have extremely short periods of daylight during winter months, the solar technology we use now is able to overcome this.

Converting the lights to LED reduces power consumption and makes the use of solar power possible. LEDs also make a significant saving in maintenance and operating costs through greater reliability. Most importantly, this makes a contribution to the reduction of our carbon footprint and ultimately provides a better service to the Mariner.

We currently have:


stations with LED technology as the primary light source


stations with solar as primary power source, 11 of these have a diesel engine back-up


buoys fully solar powered

We must consider how our operational activities impact on the wider social and environmental areas that affect our planet.

The conversion of solar buoys from acetylene began in 1993 at Macosh Rock. The last buoy, a contractor’s at Ullapool Point, was converted to solar on 6 August 2002.

For the year 2020, our 129 lights powered by solar only, produced an average estimated 526,255 hours of light and our 174 solar powered buoys produced 713,660 hours of light to guide and keep mariners safe in the waters around Scotland and the Isle of Man. This is a combined total of 1,239,919 hours of light provided as a result of renewable energy.


A Decarbonisation Review of our Oban Base was completed in 2022. The review identified initiatives to further improve energy efficiency and emissions reduction – PV solar, rainwater harvesting are planned; the whole site has been refitted with LED lighting; an Air source heat pump has been installed; and shore power will be upgraded to allow vessels to plug-in, remain emission free and re-charge batteries. Waste and water use has also been optimised and closely measured, new waste streams are being recycled providing an overall recycling rate of 67%.


Oban Base Carbon Reduction Achievements at a Glance

  • Weekly skip collections and vehicle movements reduced via maximising skip ‘air’ space by compacting cardboard, resulting in skip collections every 6 to 8 weeks
  • 5 Tons of glass now diverted from landfill via recycling initiative
  • Energy efficient ICT infrastructure, linking with re-use schemes as appropriate
  • 100% LED lighting
  • Electricity and gas use from green suppliers
  • Marine growth from buoys deposited at location instead of requiring skip collections
  • Introduced recyclable plastic pallets
  • 2 electric vehicles

Oban Base Decarbonisation Report (PDF)


Wind turbine at Start Point

Start Point was originally a hybrid site which had a diesel generator and mid-size solar array. The solar array alone would not have kept the batteries charged and the light operating. As part of the refurbishment project for the lighthouse, we removed the generator and replaced it with a wind turbine.

Start Point is a trial site for wind turbine energy and will help us on our lighthouse decarbonisation journey.


The biggest challenge we face in reaching Net Carbon Zero is addressing the burning of fossil fuel by our vessels, PHAROS and POLE STAR. The ships account for around 71% of our carbon emissions. Working to decarbonise our vessels in line with the Clean Maritime Plan 2050, is pivotal to achieving net zero carbon.

Plug in shore supply for Ships

Some of the ways we’re tackling this is by investing in improved fuel metering to allow us to make quantitative evaluation. Our ships' Masters have made changes to their vessel handling and transit speeds, adjusting these wherever possible to ensure optimal fuel consumption and related emissions reduction. Eco driving for vessels!

Change of operation - slow passage

New Hybrid Ship

In 2025 we will take delivery of a new state-of-the-art hybrid powered ship to support our vital safety service to mariners. The new ship, which will take the name POLE STAR, will be a step change from what has gone before. The vessel will use new technology to minimise the impact on the environment and will bring additional capability to help deal with the effects of Climate Change.

This will ensure we can continue to protect mariners and our precious marine environment in Scottish and Manx waters into the 2050s. The vessel will enter service in Summer 2025 and will meet the ambitious environmental targets set out in the UK Government Clean Maritime Plan, whilst future proofing our ability to deliver our vital safety services over the next 25 years.


Ongoing staff awareness and support is a key contributor in helping us to reduce our carbon footprint and the wider impact on the environment.

We have adopted a culture where every member of NLB’s team is responsible for tackling the Climate Emergency. In 2020/21, we incorporated carbon reduction, and wider environmental objectives and behaviours, into our Performance Management System for shore-based staff. This was extended to include all seafarers during 2021/22.

The importance of our people in meeting NLB’s environmental objectives is evidenced by the Environmental Working Group. The Group’s enthusiasm to drive change from the bottom up is having a significant impact. They have set the pace for change and have been instrumental in raising collective awareness and emphasising individual responsibility for doing what is right.


We have introduced new measures to ensure every project and procurement is examined through the lens of sustainability. By procuring goods and services sustainably, we will generate benefits, not only to NLB, but also to society and the local economy, whilst minimising damage to the environment.

We ask all potential suppliers to consider how their operational activities are impacting on the wider social and environmental areas that affect our planet.


Case Study

Maxi Construction won the contract for the refurbishment of our headquarters at 84 George Street following a competitive tender process.

The contract was procured via the Crown Commercial Service framework and Maxi has a number of KPI’s to meet with regards to targeted recruitment and training; SME and social enterprise development and community engagement. Maxi are registered as Considerate Constructors and as the site is registered with the scheme, they need to ensure they are promoting construction positively and adhering to their code of practice with regards to the community, environment and workforce.

To date Maxi has delivered:

We have introduced new measures to ensure every project and procurement is examined through the lens of sustainability. This reinforces the ambition set out in our Carbon Management Plan.


NLB has always held responsibility for protecting the locations it operates in, ensuring our actions have a minimal impact and reducing impact on the sensitive environments within which we operate.

A Biosecurity Plan is in place to make sure measures are implemented to keep natural habitats and nature from harm. This includes preventing the spread of diseases such as Avian Flu and the introduction of invasive species such as rodents to sensitive island environments. Our arrangements are held up as best practice by RSPB.

We are working in partnership with the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust to train vessel crews to spot and report sea mammals. We also have a longstanding agreement with NatureScot, Scotland’s regulator for the natural environment, to ensure operations do not impact critical breeding seasons.

We will make sure, that we continue to minimise and reduce the impact of our safety service, within the sensitive environmental conditions within which we operate.


We have a range of initiatives to address the emissions from transport and travel. These include the  impact of NLB vehicles (owned, hired and grey fleet), in addition to flights and rail travel for meetings and conferences. Vehicle and business travel make up approximately 11% of our carbon footprint, equating to 891 tCO2e.

Within our fleet, we currently have three electric vehicles. Our Asset Manager has been working in partnership with a range of stakeholders to understand the future availability and location of electric vehicle charging points within the areas we operate in. We are also looking at the possibility of introducing battery charging points for electric vehicles at all road end lighthouse sites.


Over the last four decades, we have made good progress in decarbonising the lighthouse estate. New and more efficient technologies are allowing us to pursue low carbon technologies at more challenging stations. For example, those stations located at higher latitudes receive less available daylight. Remaining sites will take time, but we will continue to implement low carbon technology where we can, to reduce our impact on the planet.

Our team still need to travel to perform key functions, but the pandemic has enabled us to consider, in a way that we never could have done before, what is essential travel. Virtual lighthouse tours are helping to reduce CO2 emissions and we have been able to significantly reduce our environmental impact as part of the ‘new normal’.

Water Harvesting

Helicopters SAF

(alternative fuels)


Future Ship Fuels

Our key carbon management themes are:

Energy Efficiency

Build Better

Renewable Technology


Transport And Travel

Waste Management

Culture Change

Vessels Replacement




  • Deliver a new vessel to replace Pole Star in 2025 which meets UK Clean Maritime requirements
  • Solarisation and decarbonisation of NLB’s Aids to Navigation Estate where possible
  • Drive the introduction of Electric Plant and Vehicles
  • Reduce fossil fuel use
  • Refurbishment of 84 George Street to improve overall building efficiency performance
  • Utilise virtual meetings and remote monitoring technologies
  • Essential business travel better planned using rail rather than flights
  • Ensure a sustainable procurement approach introducing (pre-purchase) lifecycle thinking wherever practicable
  • Use Green Energy across the NLB estate
  • Ensure a sustainable approach to engineering, improved reliability thereby reducing the need for intervention. Better monitoring offering early indication of potential failures allowing planned intervention rather than a failure response increasing maintenance circularity
  • Utilising resource and recycling efficiency – limiting the volume of material sent to landfill
  • Offer staff the opportunity to work from home which will both directly and indirectly reduce carbon emissions
  • Continuing to research and test new and novel AtoN renewable power technologies
  • Delivering a continual improvement approach to NLB’s ISO 14001 Environmental Management System performance
  • Continue to develop and nurture a community of practice which incorporates environmental awareness and performance across NLB



NLB has a requirement under the Greening Government Commitments to report to the Department for Transport (DfT), the actions we’re taking to reduce our impact on the environment, in the period 2021 to 2025. The GGC set targets, which require NLB to record and submit carbon emissions data to the DfT on a quarterly basis. These are summarised in our Carbon Management Plan on pages 8 to 11, with a table of suggested year on year percentage reduction.

Carbon Management Plan