Banks respond to Which? sustainability review

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Banks have responded to a recent Which? Review of sustainability, with Barclays suggesting that some of the data may be misleading.

Which? surveyed 1,071 members of its online panel between March 20 and May 26, 2021. Which?, along with Ethical Consumer, analysed each provider was assessed against four categories: Environmental reporting, carbon management and reporting; transparency and ethical lending policies; and company ethos.

High-street banks – NatWest Group (54/100), Lloyds Banking Group (52/100), HSBC (44/100), Barclays (41/100) and Santander (35/100) – finished in the middle of the table. While they all performed well in the environmental category, their policies rarely included a complete ban on fossil fuel investment.

“While we support Ethical Consumer’s objective of encouraging more sustainable consumer habits, we believe that some of the data is misleading,” said a spokesperson for Barclays.

“For example, Barclays has a clear set of financing restrictions for certain fossil fuel sectors, as outlined in our Climate Change Statement which are not reflected in the data and scoring, undermining the credibility of this reporting. We continue to work with clients, industry partners and stakeholders to accelerate the transition towards a low carbon economy as we align the bank’s financing portfolio to the goals of the Paris Agreement on the way to achieving our ambition to be a net-zero bank by 2050,” they added

A Co-operative Bank spokesperson said, “Earlier this month, The Co-operative Bank was recognised by Sustainalytics, a leading independent ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) ratings agency, as the UK’s best ESG rated high street bank. It is clear that consumers are increasingly seeking more ethical choices and there is a demand for greater clarity and transparency so people can make informed decisions. We would therefore welcome a clear and consistent ‘kitemark’ system to help customers understand the environmental and social implications of where they bank. Our co-operative values and ethics and our unique customer-led ethical policy mean we are at the forefront of issues that matter to UK consumers.”

Charles Haresnape, Gatehouse Bank’s CEO, said the study would motivate the bank’s willingness to share information.

“We welcome the Which? study into sustainability practices as this is an extremely important area for Gatehouse, and we consider ourselves a growing participant in this field. Clearly from the breadth of this assessment by Ethical Consumer, we need to review and increase the level of information we share on our website,” he said.

“We have plans to further enhance our sustainability position over the coming months, in line with our commitment as a founding signatory to the UN Principles for Responsible Banking. This will see us set sustainability targets for the bank and become operationally carbon neutral, and this information will be shared on our website. We believe our position is far stronger than that represented by this survey and will continue to evolve our sustainability position in order to ensure we achieve a significantly improved score should this study be undertaken in the future,” he added.

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Written by

Deirdre Tynan

Deirdre Tynan is an award-winning journalist who enjoys bringing the best in news reporting to Spain’s largest English-language newspaper, Euro Weekly News. She has previously worked at The Mirror, Ireland on Sunday and for news agencies, media outlets and international organisations in America, Europe and Asia. A huge fan of British politics and newspapers, Deirdre is equally fascinated by the political scene in Madrid and Sevilla. She moved to Spain in 2018 and is based in Jaen.


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