The climate policies put in place by our high street banks need to be significantly worked towards, as research shows 50% of our high street banks are behind.
Reclaim Finance, a non-governmental research and campaigning organisation, and UK information company, Which?, have released their analysis regarding which high street banks have put environmental and climate policies in place, and which banks are making fossil fuel investments.
The results came from a study of 13 high street banks. Each of these banks are classed as leading financial institutions within the UK, and out of the 13, only three have adequate climate policies in place. These are the Co-operative Bank, Nationwide, and Triodos.
Out of the 13, only three have adequate climate policies.
Worryingly six of the banks studied have been classed as being in the ‘red’ category, as they all fail to have adequate climate policies in place. Each of them has weak policies when it comes to phasing out fossil fuel investments and in regards to agricultural commodities that are linked to deforestation, these banks have lacked target statements. These agricultural commodities include beef, palm oil, soy, and timber.
These six banks, with weak climate policies, are Barclays, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, Lloyds which includes both Halifax and the Bank of Scotland, NatWest including RBS, and Santander.
Two of the banks studied, were less involved in investments into fossil fuel projects and agricultural commodities. These banks were Lloyds and NatWest.
Which? Money’s Deputy Editor, Sam Richardson claims that:
“Consumers seeking to make more sustainable choices might want to consider switching banks if they are uncomfortable with their money being invested in the fossil fuel industry and other projects which could be damaging to the environment.”
The Co-operative Bank
When offering services and finance to businesses, the Co-operative Bank has a strong set of ethical standards, as part of their climate policies. Most of the businesses this bank helps are SMEs, or small and medium enterprises. Any business seeking financial help that is involved in fossil fuel projects or unsustainable agricultural practices are refused.
Nationwide mainly finances residential mortgages, therefore, this bank does not fund fossil fuel projects or lend to companies that do.
The bank releases information regarding its carbon emissions when it comes to mortgages, commercial real estate, and registered social landlord lending. The bank claims that:
“We have committed to playing our part in the transition to a net-zero future.
This is just one of the ways we demonstrate our mutual difference.”
Triodos pledge to only fund renewable energy projects, and therefore, refuses to fund and excludes any fossil fuel projects or companies that do. The bank states:
“We also go beyond exclusion and actively look for positive impact…
delivering positive change for people and planet.”
The study shows that Barclays is the biggest investor of fossil fuel projects in Europe. However, the study shows that it is the only bank that has targets for 2025 for both power and energy, to improve their climate policies. They also, since 2018, have provided around £87 billion in green finance. The bank have claimed that:
“Barclays can make the greatest difference by working with customers…
as they transition to a low-carbon business model.”
Within the UK, HSBC is one of the largest financers for fossil fuel projects, although the study shows that the bank has pledged to lower the amount of coal projects it is involved with and will improve its energy policies.
“We were one of the first banks to set a net-zero ambition in 2020…
We will no longer provide new finance or advisory services for the specific
purposes of new oil and gas fields, or for the most carbon-intensive oil assets.”
The bank that had the weakest climate policies was JPMorgan Chase, the study showed that this bank has more investments into fossil fuel projects than all of the other banks studied, even more than the investments from each bank added together. Between 2016 to 2022, JPMorgan financed around $434.15 billion into fossil fuels. They also had the lowest score in regards to positive environmental impact.
The bank has claimed that it will put $1 trillion aside for green initiatives by 2030 that should help:
“clients accelerate their low carbon transition”.
Out of the banks within the ‘red’ category, Lloyds scored the best. The bank has low financing to fossil fuel projects, although they have not yet fully phased out financing projects that involves oil and gas expansion plans.
They have stated:
“We are actively working with oil and gas clients to establish credible
transition plans by the end of 2023. We know time is critical.”
NatWest does still fund several fossil fuel projects; however, they have already set ambitious targets and climate policies to reduce their emissions. They do have plans to only lend money to companies that has a ‘climate transition plan’. Which?, however has warned that this could lead to several loopholes.
Santander, when compared to banks of a similar size, invests a lot less into fossil fuel projects. They did have low scores when it came to its targets set for agricultural commodities and fossil fuels.
The bank stated that:
“(it has) set emission reduction targets for 2030 across a range of
material emitting sectors, including steel, aviation, power generation,
thermal coal, and energy (oil and gas).”
For further information on how to switch your bank see our guides below, written with our Going Green Partner, SwitchIt Green: