NatWest Group wants to tackle climate change and has set itself some big goals to address the global challenge. James Close, the bank’s Head of Climate, tells Ethical Reading why the environment is such an important issue for the bank and why it’s supporting its customers to take the lead.
The clock is ticking.
The deadline? 2050. Nearly 30 years away.
Yet the urgency for action has never been greater, or more painfully apparent.
As the science becomes ever clearer, the 2015 Paris Agreement was the global call to action; if we want to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius then we must reach net zero global carbon emissions by that landmark half-century date.
Less than 30 years to decide the future of the planet we all call our home. Suddenly, the urgency of the clock’s ticking hands sounds ever more apparent.
I’m a stubborn optimist though and a lot of that hope comes from working for a bank that has set out a genuine agenda to be a central part of this economic, social and environmental transformation.
But why should NatWest Group be getting involved, we’re a bank not environmentalists? It’s a good question and one that leads back to our purpose.
As a purpose-driven bank, we believe we have a massive responsibility to help tackle climate change because it affects so profoundly future generations. The actions we take today truly will shape tomorrow.
To reach the 2050 target requires a huge reconfiguration of the global economy. This means not just preparing ourselves and our customers for change, but also looking at how we can help them take advantage of the many opportunities transitioning to a low carbon future will offer.
We must lead by example, and that is why we’ve set some ambitious targets to make us the leading bank in the UK helping to address the climate challenge. These include at least halving the climate impact of our financing activity by 2030; providing over £20bn additional funding and financing for climate and sustainable finance; and making our own operations climate positive by 2025, having already achieved our ambition to make them net carbon zero by the end of last year.
Taking the necessary actions to address the climate challenge has the potential to create jobs, transform communities and touch every family in the country. But that means thinking long-term and acting quickly, working in partnership with others to achieve together what cannot be achieved alone.
It’s why we’re creating products and services that will enable our customers to track their own carbon impact. We can all make positive changes, and often these will start in the home where, according to UK Government National Statistics, residential properties make up 15% of the UK’s total climate emissions. Our Green Mortgage rewards people for choosing an energy efficient home with a reduced interest rate and cash back. These kinds of steps help recognise people who are trying to make a difference.
We also want to help businesses become more sustainable. When you look at the different countries and regions of the UK there are so many unique strengths. These are set out in the Government’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Revolution and they present a huge opportunity for us as a nation, as we embrace a greener economy.
Our objective is to help businesses succeed by moving to more sustainable ways of working. There can often be an assumption that such moves have a negative effect on a business’ bottom line, but climate smart investment can drive real savings and growth.
Take for example the costs of renewable energy technologies, which are now often cheaper than carbon-intensive forms of energy. Yes, it can take investment and significant shifts in supply, but there is often a pay back. There’s also mounting evidence that people want to buy products and services from businesses that are committed to sustainability. Taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint builds a closer, more meaningful relationship with their customers and this results in greater loyalty and higher levels of trust.
We recently announced a landmark partnership with the energy sector. In collaboration with the green energy tech company Octopus Energy, we are supporting businesses to access electric vehicle charging points at a discounted price, making it more cost-effective to switch to greener vehicle technologies.
Also, through our entrepreneur accelerator programme, supporting start-up and scale-up businesses, we have dedicated 25% of places for businesses supporting environmental activities.
We will champion the fight against climate change by playing an active role in the transition to a net zero carbon economy. In doing so we believe passionately that we will help to create a greener, fairer and more inclusive economy for all by building deeper relationships with customers and communities in every region of the UK.
We can’t stop the clock from ticking, but we can make sure we act with every minute that passes.
James Close is Head of Climate at NatWest Group.