COP26 was always going to be the pivot point for companies in making a proper commitment to sustainability. Banks, in particular, have been accused of paying lip service to the green agenda. And it’s easy to see why – for many executives it has seemed less a business imperative, more a fad, a tick box exercise.
So at COP26, Chancellor, Rishi Sunak announced that every company listed on the UK stock exchange will be legally obliged to produce annual plans for becoming green or risk financial penalties. Firms are mandated to produce regular transition plans for how they help the UK reach net carbon emissions, or risk getting fined or kicked off stock markets.
But banks shouldn’t treat climate change as just another regulatory mandate – it doesn’t have to be a cost centre. For a start, saving the planet – and our contribution to that (from an individual and business perspective) – should be front of mind for everyone. Initiatives to address climate change reflect well on an organisation’s reputation – customers, employees and shareholders alike will think better of you for it. And for banks, climate change can also be a source of business opportunity – green mortgages, for example.
But with the government diktat at COP26, there will be a lot of consternation in board rooms as firms scratch heads on how they can prove they’re becoming greener. So where do banks start? How can they mobilise a programme that addresses this whole climate change issue?
Here are our top four tips towards building a green centre of excellence:
- Conduct risk management and stress testing – banks need to update their risk frameworks to prepare for the Bank of England’s 2021 biennial exploratory scenario, which aims to test the resilience of business models of banks, insurers and other financial institutions to climate related risks, to gauge the scale of adjustment they need to make in order for them to remain resilient.
- Assessing business opportunities – considering revenue generation opportunities around climate change is also important for banks, to ensure this is not just a cost to business (as regulation is often viewed). This could involve assessing the possibilities of developing green products that will help customers live more sustainably.
- Weighing up the company carbon footprint – it is really important to start at home, to conduct analysis to assess the business’s own carbon footprint and come up with clear, measurable solutions on how to address it. This needs to be a cross organisational effort that looks into every element, from business travel and electricity usage, to approaches to procurement and where reuse and recycling can be deployed. This will undoubtedly be a big part of the government’s new requirements.
- Measuring and reporting – this could mean establishing a baseline for financed emissions, setting Paris aligned targets to reduce them and embedding carbon reporting into BAU finance processes. This will undoubtedly be front of mind for businesses adhering to new government requirements.
One thing is for sure, left to its own devices, UK plc just wasn’t doing enough to contribute to net zero, or at least, not with sufficient urgency. The fact that it is now legally binding is a great thing in the drive towards net zero and sustainability. The question for banks and other financial institutions, is how they mobilise their efforts effectively and swiftly.
To find out more about the P2 House of Green – our model for building climate change programmes within organisations – please get in touch today by emailing [email protected]