NatWest pledges £100bn of sustainable funding and plans green loan

NatWest has pledged £100 billion of climate and sustainable funding and financing by the end of 2025 and has announced plans to launch an SME green loan.

The move came as the banking group released a new report which found that SMEs could create up to 130,000 new jobs, produce around 30,000 new businesses and result in an estimated £160 billion opportunity for the UK economy.

The report also found that the UK’s 6 million Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) can achieve 50 per cent of the UK’s Net Zero decarbonisation goals, if they receive the right support through funding, knowledge, and training.

While the report’s finding that less than 10 per cent of SMEs currently see climate action as a source of future growth, it found that SMEs have two distinct opportunities to create value from delivering climate action: driving business value by reducing their own emissions and unlocking growth through wider climate action.

As part of the banking group’s £100 billion of Climate and Sustainable Funding and Financing (CSFF) target by 2025, NatWest is aiming to help to support the investment needed to transition the UK to a net zero economy and will help to support the bank’s customers including SMEs on their transition to a net zero and a more sustainable economy.

NatWest said that with the right support, the majority of SMEs could benefit financially from reducing their carbon footprint, and through supporting the UK’s transition by delivering activity like residential retrofitting, installing renewable power equipment, upgrades to the electricity grid and installing electric vehicle charge points.

The report calls on financial institutions, government, industry bodies and large corporates to play their role in collectively supporting SMEs to unlock the climate opportunity.

NatWest also plans to launch a new green loan product for SME customers, new specialist Accelerators for Clean Transport and Circular Economy, new tools for businesses to monitor their carbon footprint, and mandatory climate training for all its relationship managers in collaboration with University of Cambridge and University of Edinburgh.

The report makes six clear recommendations where SMEs need most support to achieve effective transition:

1. Funding Access – financing that reflects the societal benefit of delivering climate action and ensures that business initiatives and investments make financial sense.
2. Awareness – support to recognise the opportunity from climate action, highlighting key skills required to transition successfully.
3. Knowledge – help to reduce their impact and improve their ability to measure and report their impact.
4. Skills and capabilities – support to develop new skills to deliver transition, such as training employees, achieving accreditations and certification, and management capabilities.
5. Market access – improved financial certainty of the benefits of broader climate action.
6. Navigation – support to navigate the complex and evolving landscape, understanding what support is available and what will most benefit their business.

Alison Rose, chief executive, NatWest Group said: “This report is the response to what our business customers are telling us they need in terms of practical support as they face a complex decision-making process.”

“Our ambition to play a leading role in the UK’s transition to a net zero economy is why we are targeting £100 billion of Climate and Sustainable Funding and Financing by the end of 2025.”

She added: “I’m firmly of the view that we should never underestimate the power of the small - and in this instance SMEs - for leveraging big advances. What this report tells us, in clear numbers, is that all sectors of the economy will need to play their part in helping the UK achieve its climate ambitions. We must look at this not just as an imperative, but as an opportunity for businesses.”

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