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Building a bank that is led by its purpose

When we set out to build a purpose-led bank in February 2020, we recognised the need to become a more sustainable bank at the core, resilient to future environmental and social shifts, and better able to capitalise on the commercial opportunities that these shifts can also present.

At the centre of our approach is the belief that we must have a reciprocal relationship with society, the environment and the communities where we operate. As a large corporation we benefit from a range of social goods in the form of customer trust, deposits, an educated workforce, licences, protections and infrastructures, all of which enable us to operate. In return, through Our Purpose, we seek to create enhanced social value, seeing this as a healthy and natural expectation of us to do business.

Our Purpose was shaped by working closely with Blueprint for Better Business, an independent charity which aims to create a better society through better business. Being led by Our Purpose means we strive to create value for all of the lives we touch by being honest and fair with our customers and suppliers; acting as a responsible employer; operating as a good citizen in our communities; and being guardians for the next generation. Underpinning everything, we strive to meet standards and conditions that ensure we operate as a responsible business, particularly around important matters such as conduct, fair pay, taxes, customer safety and human rights.

Our purpose-led strategy aims to deliver long-term sustainable performance and seeks to accelerate social value in areas where we can make a meaningful contribution: by helping to minimise the impact of climate change; championing enterprise; and supporting learning inside and outside the bank. We call these our focus areas and they are informed by 7 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) along with continual external stakeholder input.

Our colleagues, customers and communities have had to adapt in order to meet the challenges of Covid-19, so we too have adapted, striving every day to meet their changing needs. From helping over 250,000 customers access mortgage repayment holidays, to transforming part of our Gogarburn HQ into a charity distribution hub, our decisions throughout the pandemic have been led by Our Purpose – and we have endeavoured to make sure the right support was in place for those who needed it.

We continue to strengthen our collaborative approach with external bodies, furthering our alignment to initiatives such as the SDGs, UNEP FI Principles of Responsible Banking, and joining the Science Based Targets Initiative. We are proud to be a Principal Partner and banking sponsor of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) and welcome the opportunity to work with others in helping the transition to a low carbon economy.

The measures we report on in our inaugural climate related disclosures report, as well as our first ESG supplement (due to be published in Q1 2021), are designed to illustrate how we have advanced in some of the areas where we have already committed to making further progress. We envisage these measures will adapt and expand over time as we are seeking to keep improving the understanding of our impact and the societal outcomes we can achieve.

We also recognise that embedding Our Purpose into everything we do will take time. We are focused on how to make balanced decisions that factor in the impact on multiple stakeholder groups. We are taking an integrated approach to governance; one that ensures that Our Purpose is appropriately embedded within our existing governance framework and processes and building new systems and processes that seek to ensure that Our Purpose sits at the core of our business.

So, for us, being led by Our Purpose is a fundamental requirement of our social contract with the individuals, families, businesses and communities we serve.

Kirsty

Kirsty Britz, Director of Sustainable Banking