NatWest and Microsoft offer UK businesses carbon neutral support
by Ben Poole
Just last week, CTMfile wrote about how a majority of corporates are already behind on meeting the net-zero emissions goal for 2050 as outlined in the Paris Agreement. The good news is that there is support out there for companies that need help understanding and tackling their carbon footprint, the latest example of which comes from the UK.
NatWest Group and Microsoft have joined forces to help UK businesses better understand their carbon footprint and create tailored action plans to reduce their carbon emissions leveraging digital technologies.
Due to be piloted later this year, and building on Microsoft’s cloud, data and AI platform alongside NatWest Group’s deep customer understanding, the bank will support business customers in understanding how and where they can reduce their emissions.
Taking the temperature
During the research phase of the project, the bank surveyed 500 business customers of different sizes to learn about their challenges in meeting their climate ambitions.
Over two-thirds (68%) of sustainability/supply chain managers have a target date to become carbon neutral, and based on a first survey by NatWest, 47% of businesses are creating a multi-year plan to reduce their carbon footprint.
For those who have started reducing their carbon footprint, nearly nine out of every 10 surveyed (88%) said reducing their indirect emissions, such as those in their supply chains, is difficult to get external support for. And 41% said reducing indirect emissions was ‘very challenging’ or ‘incredibly challenging’ for them. A lack of resources/funds (55%) and lack of information/data (46%) were the greatest barriers hampering their transition.
For businesses that haven’t started their transition, the biggest barriers they face are a lack of information and data (33%), and a lack of resource or funding (27%).
"Tackling climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our time," said Alison Rose, chief executive officer of NatWest Group. "As the leading bank in the UK for businesses, we have a significant responsibility, and the ability, to encourage, enable and to lead the way in the UK to transition to a net zero carbon economy. Cross-industry collaboration and powerful partnerships will help to accelerate the speed of the transition, and I am very pleased we are working with Microsoft to help Britain’s businesses to understand and tackle their carbon footprints."
This piece of work is a demonstration of NatWest Group and Microsoft’s commitments not just to tackle their own climate impacts but to support other businesses to reduce theirs through the use of data and technology.
Both companies have put tackling climate change at the heart of their strategies. In January 2020, Microsoft announced its goal to be carbon negative by 2030 and remove more carbon from the environment than it has emitted since its founding by 2050.
"At Microsoft we grounded our carbon negative strategy in the belief that technology can help solve the world's biggest challenges," commented Clare Barclay, chief executive officer of Microsoft UK. "We are focused upon pulling all of the levers of influence we have including our operations as a customer, supplier, investor, employer, policy advocate and partner. We are proud to partner with NatWest on its bold sustainability aspirations. Partnerships help us accelerate progress and together I'm looking forward to enabling more UK businesses to drive the progress we so urgently need."
NatWest Group has set ambitions to make its own operations climate positive by 2025, having achieved net zero in 2020, and to halve the climate impact of its financing activity by 2030.
The bank has published its first ever ESG supplement, a new publication bringing together non-financial disclosures to help investors and other stakeholders understand the bank’s progress against its purpose, for which climate is a key priority.
It has also recently completed analysis of its financing to the oil and gas extraction, automotive manufacturing and agriculture sectors as well as to residential mortgage properties, which represent 45% of its book. It is the first major UK bank to publish such data and will continue to analyse the rest of its financing this year.
After recent discussions between Alison Rose and Mark Carney, the Prime Minister’s Finance Advisor for COP26, NatWest Group intends to join the growing coalition of organisations in the Race to Zero, championed by the UK COP26 presidency and others, which is consistent with its ambition to be a leading bank acting on climate change. NatWest Group was named as one of the first principal partners of the COP26 climate summit last November.
The NatWest customer research involved two separate surveys of 250 businesses, combined with 20 in-depth expert and customer interviews.
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