The Climate Centre of Excellence is the central team for our climate strategy at NatWest Group. Its mission is to support the integration of tackling climate change into everything we do. Rhona, Alex and Esther from the team tell us more.

What’s the mission of the Climate Centre of Excellence? 

Rhona: The team was created in 2021 to help identify the strategic actions that would make climate central to decisions taken across the bank. We support colleagues across NatWest Group by providing insight, technical advice and support. 

What are your priorities? 

Alex: We’re focused on evolving the initial iteration of our Climate Transition Plan which was published in February 2023, and through this, identifying further strategic growth opportunities.

Esther: Our Climate transition plan is a key strategic piece of work. As a team, we’ve adopted ‘systems thinking’ to help us understand how each sector connects and relies on others. This will then allow us to unearth and explore the opportunities that will ultimately support our customers’ transition to net zero.

A systems thinking approach considers how carbon flows between sectors in the economy and the factors that determine the size of those carbon flows. 


We’ve elevated our thinking from how we’ll support specific sectors to whole systems

Can you tell us more about your approach?

Alex: Our climate ambition is to be a leading bank in the UK, helping address the climate challenge, so continuing to enhance our strategy and lending policies is key.

We’re leading the way with initiatives such as our Springboard to Sustainability Report, which outlines how UK SMEs could benefit from decarbonisation and contribute to tackling climate change. Also, our target to provide £100 billion climate and sustainable funding and financing between 1 July 2021 and the end of 2025 supports our ambition to at least halve the climate impact of our financing activity by 2030, against a 2019 baseline.

Rhona: As part of the initial iteration of our Climate transition plan, we’ve elevated our thinking from how we’ll support specific sectors to whole systems. For example, instead of looking at sectors like land transport, shipping and aviation independently, we consider them collectively as the ‘mobility’ system to understand how they interconnect.

We’re also focusing on the energy system, the food system, the property system and the financial system. 

How have you applied systems thinking so far?

Esther: We adopted systems thinking in 2022 for the initial iteration of our Climate transition plan. It helps us identify the key issues we need to consider. It’s about recognising that the decarbonisation of some sectors can have a big impact on others. For instance, in the energy system, decarbonising energy supply and demand will affect other systems, like mobility and property.

Alex: Systems thinking also helps acknowledge that transition is not linear. As funds are invested in supporting transition across sectors and systems, we could see increased emissions in the short term in some areas, before emissions intensities start to reduce in others, leading to an overall reduction in emissions in the medium to longer term. There are interdependencies between every sector and every system.

In the property system for example, there’s a dependency on energy efficiency, more sustainable building materials and supply chains, all of which will support the decarbonisation of residential and commercial real estate.

So, what’s next?

Rhona: We’re inspired and excited about the scale of the opportunity. Another key point is around collaboration and partnerships. This is critical. To enable change and make an impact beyond what NatWest Group are doing, there must be a collective effort from everyone, including timely and appropriate government policy and other external factors such as customer behaviour changes and technology developments. 

Esther: For our team, this means building relationships across NatWest Group with our colleagues to support our customers. It also means using our influence to build powerful partnerships and collaborations so that ultimately, climate is central to decision-making. Our commitment to climate isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also critical to support sustainable growth.

Key priorities for the Climate Centre of Excellence

Working to deliver against our four climate pillars, the Climate Centre of Excellence has identified a number of priority projects to support our journey to net zero.

1. Supporting customer transition to net zero

As part of our target to provide £100 billion climate and sustainable funding and financing between 1 July 2021 and end of 2025, we aim to provide an additional £10 billion in lending between 1 January 2023 and the end of 2025 for residential properties with an EPC rating of A and B.

2. Helping to end the most harmful activities

Ensure our Environmental, Social and Ethical (ESE) Risk Acceptance Criteria for heightened climate risk sectors are consistent with our purpose-led ambitions and commitment to net zero. For example, we made the case for NatWest Group to join the Powering Past Coal Alliance and committed to join the Alliance at the plenary panel at COP26.

3. Powerful partnerships and collaborations

Continue to build partnerships to create opportunities for supporting customer transition. This includes exploring working with the Supply Chain Sustainability School to share and build the knowledge and skills needed to retrofit homes across the UK.

4. Getting our own house in order

Continue to embed climate in decision making and regularly monitor progress against our ambitions.  In line with Science Based Target initiative (SBTi) guidance, plan to continue emission reductions in our direct own operations. Plan to work with our principal landlords to advocate for renewable electricity in all properties and apply lessons from the EV100 plan to global operations using electric transport, where available.

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, Alex Borland, Rhona Turnbull and Esther Pow Lee Hoh, 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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