RBS helping fund a greener future
The preparatory work is underway on Glasgow’s Clydeside as Scotland prepares for the arrival of arguably the most important global events in a generation – the UN COP26 Conference on Climate Change.
Taking place just 12 weeks after the Olympic flag falls on Tokyo after a sporting triumph which saw Scotland play its part in helping Team GB achieve a spectacular medal tally, all eyes and minds will now focus on how each country can do its part in tackling the challenge of climate change.
The world has set itself a target of being Net Zero Carbon by 2045 but Glasgow’s historic rival, Edinburgh, has an ambition to achieve this target even earlier, ideally by 2030. But to achieve it will need the city’s key businesses and the country to play as a team to make it happen.
One of the organisations keen to play a role is Royal Bank of Scotland. The bank, which has served the country for almost 300 years, is a principal partner at COP26 and recognises the role it has to play to help the city and the country to achieve its ambition to safeguard the planet for centuries to come.
It is already looking at how it operates as a business to help reduce its own carbon footprint. Any principal partner for COP26 has to commit to the Paris Agreement targets before it can be chosen. A stroll around its legendary Gogarburn headquarters is proof of it.
As it works towards achieving a goal of using only renewable electricity in its direct global operations by 2025 (in 2020 the business achieved its interim target of 90% renewable electricity coverage), construction work is underway to build a new EV charging network at Gogarburn to help make it easier for staff who need to travel to use electric vehicles – if they aren’t working from home to help them reduce their carbon footprint.
Such actions offer insights of the challenges becoming more climate friendly can create, both for business and personal customers, and the bank is taking on the challenge of helping make it easier for those that want to make such change.
The bank has committed to provide an additional £20 Billion of funding for climate and sustainable finance between 2020 and 2022 – on top of their position as one of the UK’s biggest providers of Green Bonds. The move has seen and will see the introduction of new products which are fit for purpose and allow everyone to make changes, no matter how small or large.
A new series of ‘green mortgages’ have been created, incentivised lending for those homeowners who want to live in more energy efficient properties.
The bank’s award-winning Entrepreneur Accelerator programme – hubs in Edinburgh and Glasgow created designed to help businesses grow and prosper, now reserve a quarter of all spaces for climate or green-focused SMEs and start-ups.
And it is also placing an emphasis on investing in partnerships – bringing the skills and expertise of some businesses and organisations to a wider audience by working with them. It is working with Octopus Energy, a specialist in the B2B sector to offer incentives such as discounted EV charging points and is currently work with the University of Edinburgh’s climate teams to see how its learning can help east coast companies.
This month it also created a new award with its long-standing partner, Scottish Edge, called the Net Zero Award, a funding package for businesses taking a sustainable approach to its working model. A winner will be announced at COP26 itself, marrying one of its partnerships with another and helping others learn from each other.
For Royal Bank Regional Director for corporate and commercial in Edinburgh, Kevin Havelock, this is crucial. Creating networks and helping educate.
“Earlier this year we announced a partnership with Microsoft that will help business customers to better understand their carbon footprint and create tailored action plans to reduce their carbon emissions through the use of digital technologies,” he explains.
“When we talk to customers we find that the lack of this information is one of the biggest barriers to helping businesses make the transition.”
According to the bank’s own research, many SME owners said that tackling their carbon emissions was the ‘hardest problem to find external support for’.
Four in ten said that reducing indirect emissions, such as their supply change, was ‘very’ or ‘incredibly challenging’ for them.
Kevin said: “With feedback like this then we have a role to play here. One in three SMEs in Scotland are supported by us so if we can help create or find these products then we can make a difference.
“Last year we launched a partnership with a start-up business called CoGo- a carbon footprint tracking app. We are expanding the pilot to take in business customers, particularly SMEs, later this year and help make it work for all of of our customers.
“This tool will allow customers to get a clear picture of their carbon footprint and what steps they can make to reduce it.
“If we can source such innovation for them with the correct forms of lending products then we can make the climate challenge an easier task.”
Royal Bank is determined to provide incentives and encouragement in order to deliver a greener future. But there is a stick to go with the carrot. The bank is determined that by the end of this year it will stop lending to and underwriting major oil and gas producers and companies with more than 15% of activities related to coal – unless they have a credible transition plan in line with UN agreements in place.
Kevin added: “On the basis that improvement starts by reducing harm, we have market-leading policies on tackling harmful activities which prohibits a lot of project financing around fossil fuel activities, including fracking and oil and gas exploration.
“There is still a huge amount to be done if we are to deliver a more sustainable world, but COP26 provides an opportunity for Scotland and Scottish businesses to showcase that what we are doing in our country is leading the way.
“We just need to work together, work as a team.”