As a principal partner of COP26, NatWest has an important role to play in determining the true legacy of the summit, helping financial institutions, governments, industry bodies and business to deliver meaningful climate action behind the pledges made in Glasgow.
Our recent UK Sustainability Purchasing Managers Index report highlighted that the nation’s businesses are committed to change, but more support is needed to help them take those crucial first green steps towards achieving their environmental ambitions, steps which can often seem expensive and complex to take on.
The report revealed that more than half of UK firms say action on recycling (52 per cent) is a high priority over the next year. However, this has slipped from 63 per cent in February 2020, indicating that the pandemic has diverted focus away from sustainability. UK businesses also noted that it is complicated and resource intensive to identify new opportunities for increased recycling.
Additionally, the findings show that customer expectations are the biggest reason for action on environmental sustainability (51 per cent), followed by company image and reputational risks (46 per cent). From a consumer standpoint, four in five UK households (81%) say it is important to align their spending habits with net zero goals with increased recycling being the top priority for them (83 per cent of UK households).
It’s clear that climate change is an important issue we all face, and we know that we must act now if we are to build a resilient economy for the future. An important way of supporting our customers through the transition is through partnerships and we have joined forces with the likes of Microsoft to help UK businesses better understand their carbon footprint and create tailored action plans to reduce their emissions. Both NatWest and Lombard, the UK’s largest asset finance company, have partnered with Octopus Energy to help customers and colleagues move to electric vehicles.
To play our part, we are committed to halving financed emissions by 2030 and to meeting Net Zero targets by 2050, in line with our position as a founding member of the Net Zero Banking Alliance. To support the Government’s Net Zero Strategy, NatWest commissioned the ‘Springboard to Sustainable Recovery’ report which found that 50 per cent of the UK’s carbon reduction ambition can be delivered by the country’s SME sector, unlocking a £160 billion growth opportunity for SMEs and creating 30,000 new SMEs or 130,000 new roles in the process.
As a proactive partner, we will lend £100 billion of Climate and Sustainable Funding and Financing (CSFF) by the end of 2025 to help our customers take advantage of the opportunities that transitioning to a low carbon future offers.
We also launched Specialist Accelerators for Clean Transport and Circular Economy, new tools for businesses to monitor their carbon footprint, and mandatory climate training for all our relationship managers in collaboration with University of Cambridge and University of Edinburgh.
As the UK’s largest business bank, we will continue to honour our commitment to the country’s diverse and enterprising SME sector, and to the climate change challenge we all face through our products, support and advice.
Andrew Harrison, Head of Business Banking, NatWest