Dr Sarah Ivory from the University of Edinburgh joins NatWest Group’s Clare Martin, to talk about working together to develop the bank’s climate education programme for colleagues.

Sarah: What motivated NatWest Group to work with an external partner on climate education?

Clare: We realised early on that climate education is a key part of fulfilling our ambition of becoming a leading bank in the UK helping to address the climate challenge. By enabling colleagues to be equipped with the tools and confidence to engage in climate conversations, we knew we could better help our customers and suppliers transition to a net-zero economy. We also recognised our own internal learning gaps and the value that comes from partnering externally on climate knowledge. So, after exploring and piloting a number of potential collaborations, in 2022 we announced a three-year strategic partnership with The University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Business, Climate Change and Sustainability to deliver our bespoke climate education programme.

Sarah: What impact has the programme had since its launch?

Clare: I’m delighted that the impacts have been so immediate and meaningful. In January 2023, the launch of the ‘Climate Change Fundamentals’ learning programme to over 64,000 colleagues helped to drive climate awareness and further engagement and advocacy bank wide. And through the ‘Climate Change Transformation’ programme, sector programmes and recently launched climate pathways, we’ve also been able to equip colleagues in priority roles to manage climate-related risks and support customers to transition.

In one 2022 example, following completion of their sector training and ahead of a refinancing deal, a relationship manager supported a customer to develop a strategy for their property portfolio, giving them further awareness of climate-related risks and the regulatory roadmap. The main impact from the programme, though, has been increased confidence and awareness. 98% of colleagues surveyed about the programme felt they’d learned how their role and profession can aid in combating climate change, and 82% felt better equipped to respond to and make decisions connected with climate change impacts. 


Clare: What’s the importance of monitoring outcomes?

Sarah: Any programme of this complexity needs to be carefully designed in the first instance, but then also closely monitored on an ongoing basis so that it continues to adapt to what’s most effective. This is why one-off, off-the-shelf training programmes have their limitations. One of the ways our Centre is helping to monitor outcomes is by proactively capturing participant feedback throughout the programmes.

The bespoke quality of our programmes is deeply dependent on our ability to listen, empathise, and innovate. So, the education programme responds entirely to our clients’ needs, grounded in our world-leading subject-matter expertise.

We do this across different levels within NatWest Group. Because the programme has been rolled out across the bank, as well as working specifically with front-line staff and specialist roles, we tailor the measurements according to the context and needs of participants. 

Clare: What has the university learned from the collaboration?

Sarah: We started working together right at the start of the pandemic, which proved to be a great opportunity to design and deliver education programmes online, at scale. We were able to embrace and leverage different learning platforms, designs, and styles of delivery. And we’ve learned some key things through this process and collaboration.

NatWest Group has trusted our experience and expertise, especially in advice around education design decisions to achieve the most impact. Because of this, they’ve given us access to their staff, processes, and strategies.

Additionally, participants are placing their trust in us as we communicate some hefty science, but also ask them to examine and reassess their mindsets in relation to climate, to banking, and even to the purpose of business.

That trust, and the communication that underpins it, allows us to tailor the content to the specific needs of the participants and NatWest Group, to be open and honest about what works and what doesn’t, and to work together to find solutions to problems as they arise.

The other key lesson from this collaboration with NatWest Group, is the importance of confidence.  The field of climate and sustainability is complex and at times intimidating. But there are ways of making it both engaging and exciting, particularly when we remove a barrier to change, or find a new area or opportunity to explore. 


Sarah: What’s next for NatWest Group’s climate education programme?

Clare: We’re still very much at the beginning of the bank’s journey on climate education. There’s still much more to do to ensure that climate knowledge is truly embedded across our business. Most immediately, though, we’ll continue to equip colleagues in priority roles with the in-depth climate knowledge, skills and confidence to act on climate. Specifically, the ‘Climate Pathways’ programme, launched in July 2023, is evolving our learning offering to become more action-orientated, enabling more of our colleagues to guide customers and suppliers towards tangible decisions on climate.

We also want to ensure that training is consistent for those operating in high-risk areas and that there are no material gaps in our climate risk training. Each pathway is 60 to 90 minutes long and consists of six modules including micro-lectures from University of Edinburgh lecturers, case studies (from NatWest Group subject matter experts, customers and external speakers) and further reading resources to support colleagues to put knowledge into practice.

Working closely together has been vital. A huge part of the programme’s success is because of the relationships that have developed between our two teams. Ultimately, we want to continue to inspire climate action and innovation through learning, and the collaboration with the University of Edinburgh is a vital way of making this happen. 


Dr Sarah Ivory is Senior Lecturer in Climate Change and Business Strategy at the University of Edinburgh.

Clare Martin is the Purpose, Climate and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lead at NatWest Group.

Disclaimers and cautions

This is for media use and not a financial promotion.

Caution about this article. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the interviewees: Dr Sarah Ivory and Clare Martin, and do not necessarily represent the views of the NatWest Group.

This article (i) has been prepared for information and reference purposes only; (ii) is intended to provide non-exhaustive, indicative and general information only; (iii) does not purport to be comprehensive; and (iv) does not provide any form of legal, tax, investment, accounting, financial or other advice.

This article should be read together with the full Climate Matters document (with special regard to the Cautionary Statements) relating to this content.

Please see NatWest Group’s 2022 Climate-related Disclosures Report for those views and other information including about our financed emissions and our exposure to heightened climate-related risk sectors.

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