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Climate Crisis Natwest Marketing

NatWest to cut ties with high-polluting clients


By Ellen Ormesher, Senior Reporter

February 21, 2022 | 3 min read

NatWest will cease to do business with high-polluting companies, including a “full exit” on coal and some oil and gas firms if they do not have “credible decarbonization plans” as the bank continues to work on its green credentials.

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NatWest has previously been criticized by activists for misleading customers around its green credentials

Making the annoucement in The Financial Times, head of climate at the UK bank James Close did not impart a specific timeframe for the move away from these clients, nor did he name them. Instead he said it will do so “as soon as is practicable” and the number of firms under reconsideration is “relatively small ... dozens or less.”

It made a commitment in 2020 to stop lending and underwriting for companies with “more than 15% of activities related to coal,” and to large oil and gas producers unless they had credible transition plans by the end of 2021. As of this week, NatWest has vowed to end all new lending to coal projects by 2030.

NatWest says its assessment on whether or not to cut ties with corporations is largely based on the extent to which company plans are aligned with the Paris Agreement to limit global warming, and how credible those plans were based on factors such as executive incentives and investment plans.

Close believes that ending the relationships sends a “powerful signal” to companies without robust climate plans.

It’s the latest step from the bank to show its environmental credentials. It was one of the first brands to sign up to the World Federation of Advertisers Planet Pledge, which has seen it take steps to ensure its marketing is a force for positive change.

In its annual results, reported on February 18, NatWest also outlined its target to provide an additional £100bn of climate and sustainable funding and financing to customers by the end of 2025, alongside plans to launch a new green loan product for SMEs.

In the past, however, NatWest has come under fire from climate activist groups for using carbon “offset” pledges to continue to finance fossil fuel and other high-polluting corporations. It has also been accused of not giving enough detail on the sustainability commitments required to receive the bank’s backing.

Banks and other financial institutions are under increasing pressure to withdraw their support from high-carbon and high-polluting clients, as many continue to advertise their green credentials while they invest in unsustainable industries.

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