RBS responds to our Divest! campaign

December 8, 2014

Bank Memes - RBS

Following responses from Lloyds and Barclays, RBS has become the third and latest fossil-fuel invested major bank to respond to our Divest! campaign.

You can read what they had to say below:

I would first like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have contacted us about this important issue.

Our ambition is to transform RBS into the number one UK bank for trust, customer service and advocacy by 2020. Trust will be earned through our commitment to serving customers’ banking needs and by acting responsibly. We appreciate that earning this trust will take time, particularly for a bank that has had as many issues as RBS, but the views of our customers and all stakeholders are extremely important in helping to steer us in the right direction.

We view climate change and energy security as two of the biggest challenges for the world over the coming decades. As such, we are working to develop a more comprehensive approach to these complex related issues. We recently commissioned the Smith School at Oxford University to help us better understand the risks and then asked them to present their findings to our board-level Sustainable Banking Committee. Other experts from NGOs and other groups also gave their views. Various teams across the bank are now working on the most appropriate responses and we expect to announce more details of our approach during the course of 2015.

 

Reporting and disclosure 

RBS already goes further than any other UK bank to disclose our financial support for the energy sector. Our latest energy finance report provides full details of the volume of our lending to the Oil & Gas and Power sectors (including coal-powered generation) and the mix of energy types. It also uses data from Trucost to calculate the carbon, water and waste intensity of our energy sector clients. Overall, our total lending to the energy sector has decreased by around 65% since 2008, and now accounts for about 2.8% of our overall lending. Fossil fuels make up about 35% of our energy project finance and in general lending, our biggest energy clients are – on average – less carbon intensive that the industry average. This report is available from: rbs.com/sustainable/energyfinancing

We continue to gain external recognition for this level of transparency in our reporting. We were pleased to achieve a score of 98 out of 100 for disclosure in the latest CDP results and be placed number one in Transparency International’s ‘Transparency in Corporate Reporting UK study’, although as ever there is still more we can do.

 

Approach to coal 

With regard to coal specifically, we are making a commitment to expand the scope of our energy financing reporting in 2015 to include our exposure to the coal mining sector. In addition, we will continue to take a firm stance on not financing coal projects and companies where we believe the environmental and social impacts are too high. Recent examples include our commitment last year to end finance to major mountain-top removal coal mining companies and ruling ourselves out of involvement in the expansion of the Abbot Point coal port in Queensland, Australia.

All our lending must adhere to our Environmental, Social and Ethical risk policies. Clients in the energy sector are covered by specific policies for Oil & Gas, Power and Mining & Metals, which are available at rbs.com/sustainable/policies. We also remain an active signatory to the Equator Principles for Project Finance, a voluntary set of standards covering environmental and social risks in project finance.

 

Support for the low carbon transition

We also recognise the crucial role we can play to help our society transition towards a low- carbon economy. By offering tailored finance and advisory services, we can help our customers cut their carbon emissions, save energy and save money. We have been the number one UK provider of project finance for UK renewable energy projects in the period 2011-2013, and we’re also helping customers – from SMEs to large corporates – to realise the benefits of energy efficiency. For example this year we developed a Business Mentor Energy Audit advice service for SMEs to help them identify energy efficiencies and cut their bills. In the capital markets business, we were elected as a member of the Green Bond Principles and helped raise capital for two of the first Green Bonds that went to market.

I hope that you will find the information I have provided here helpful in showing that RBS is taking these issues seriously. We are firmly committed both to disclosure and to material change within our business to help us meet our responsibilities to customers and society at large. Finally, I’d like to reiterate my thanks to all those who have taken the time to contact me on this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Cave Chief Sustainability Officer

 

Responses like this show that our campaign is working. The big banks are moving to assert their environmental and sustainable credentials, and clearly feel that they have to address these concerns to avoid losing customers.

You can read our response to RBS here. In the mean time, make sure you put your bank on notice if you haven’t done so already, and encourage your friends, family and colleagues to do the same.

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