Achieving net zero in social housing: Zero Emissions Social Housing Taskforce report

This report outlines work undertaken by Zero Emission Social Housing Task Force. Within the report the recommendations set out what is required to achieve zero emission housing whilst ensuring support for tenants in reducing their energy bills and achieving carbon savings.

Appendix B: ZEST remit and approach


The terms of reference for this work, set by the Scottish Government, are replicated in Appendix C. They make clear that the independent short life working group, Zero Emissions Social Housing Taskforce (ZEST), was tasked to consider and provide practical recommendations on what is required to achieve our ambitious climate change targets, taking account of the various interdependencies that exist.

ZEST had been asked to consider the blueprint for the ideal system that promotes the economic and environmental aspirations for Scotland in the short, medium, and long-term of the actions required by all parts of the social housing sector in achieving zero emissions homes while maximising the wider social and economic opportunities relating to green jobs and warm, quality, sustainable homes. The work of ZEST was ambitious and there was a particularly strong emphasis in the remit on the importance of understanding barriers that exist, how those could be overcome, recognising the need for strong partnership approach where the social and economic benefits could be realised while ensuring a just and fair transition. The remit offered ZEST a relatively blank canvas on which to develop its practical recommendations, which will have a lasting impact in a positive manner.

The remit underlined the importance of evidence-based management in a complex and continually evolving context. Defining the information and skills required to ensure this can happen was integral to the work of ZEST, as was ensuring that sufficient resources and access to funding would be available to support social landlords.

ZEST Membership

Ministers invited Sally Thomas from the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) and Aubrey Fawcett from the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE) to co-chair a Zero Emissions Social Housing Taskforce (ZEST). Membership consisted of invited strategic leaders in key stakeholder organisations, including the Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations (GWSF), the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing officers (ALACHO), the independent Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR), and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA). ZEST also included practitioners from housing associations and industry, architects and academics who are actively involved in delivering decarbonisation projects in social housing, leading innovative projects, knowledgeable on the challenges of financing decarbonisation projects, and aware of the particular challenges of extending projects into rural and island areas. Co-chairs exercised a delegated power to invite additional members as they felt necessary.

A full list of the members of ZEST and its subgroups is provided at Appendix E.

Civil servants from within the Scottish Government’s Housing and Social Justice Directorate provided support throughout the process.


The work of ZEST focused on how to accelerate change for existing stock in the social housing sector with the aim of identifying how to decarbonise homes in a fair and equitable manner, while ensuring that fuel poverty ambitions are also achieved. This was in recognition that new build housing already provides an opportunity to build homes that will be net zero ready and do not need to be retrofitted in the future, to reduce overall heat demand through high levels of fabric energy efficiency, and to greatly scale up the installation of zero direct emissions heating systems. Separate work is taking place to ensure that all new homes delivered by Registered Social Landlords and local authorities will be zero emissions by 2026.

In addition to the meetings of the full group, two subgroups were set up to specifically examine and recommend practical solutions for the:

1. challenges and opportunities around technical solutions to meet net zero heating in social housing; and

2. cost and affordability of the work needed.

The group also convened a financial roundtable to seek financial expertise on potential financial systems and sources to address the challenging net zero target.

Notes of meetings are published on the Scottish Government website Zero Emission Social Housing Taskforce – (

From the beginning, ZEST decided to adopt an open and collaborative process designed to maximise input from those with an interest in the outcome. One result of this was that ZEST members held full meetings of the group and in parallel meetings of the sub-groups which progressed at significant pace. Members of ZEST also contributed additional discussion papers and their expertise for consideration of the wider group. The most important consequence was a process that was participative, well informed and (at times) challenging – all vital ingredients in the production of this report. ZEST is indebted to all who contributed.


ZEST commenced in April 2021. The full group met every fortnight with sub-groups meetings taking in between full group meetings. This was to review progress and agree priorities for the period ahead. A great deal of work was undertaken by all involved in the periods between formal meetings so that systematic progress was made throughout the three-month period. Contributions and feedback from members were considered and discussed with updates provides from previous meetings so that the collaborative nature of the group’s work was maintained. The combined strength of all of ZEST members, their collective expertise and experience, as well as the energy and enthusiasm they brought, ensured ZEST moved quickly and effectively within the short timescales it was set for its work.



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