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Profit with purpose: Corporate environmental sustainability

To drive systemic change, boards must view sustainability as the business of business. Hear from our Global Head of Sustainability and ESG, Elsa Palanza, and Head of International Corporate Banking, David Farrow, on how businesses can benefit from becoming sustainable.

David Farrow:

Environmental sustainability is becoming really important, both in our personal lives and our business lives. And I think at home, we all feel the pressure to really do a better job of leaving the planet in a better state than we found it. But also, it's becoming a bigger and bigger topic for our clients, as well, as they get questions from investors, from people that they supply to, around what are they going to do to actually make a difference, to make us more sustainable.

 

Elsa Palanza:

Embedding sustainability into your business practice is becoming a necessity and a mandate; so we're seeing sustainable business be the new normal. There are so many examples of good businesses who've been really embedding this into their daily practice. Ultimately, sustainability depends on our human practices and human systems as much as it does our reliance on natural resources. As a leader, go through the course of one day, think about every system or approach that you come into contact with. Whether it's your supply chain, your vendors, your colleagues, your clients, your operations at large. Chances are there's a chance to embed sustainability practices into every one of those aspects.

 

David:

I think in terms of starting on the sustainability journey, picking something that's really actionable early on is key. For many that will be looking at energy efficiency, whether that be around lighting, building quality, transport. I think there's a number of different areas there that businesses can consider taking action on, and it makes a real difference. But I've also seen fantastic progress in supermarkets, which of course touch all of us. Whether that be around the energy consumption in their stores, or whether it be around the way they're working with supply chains to perhaps reduce packaging or make sourcing more sustainable. Also working with farmers, both in the UK and around the world. Many of our clients are building 'sustainability as business as usual' into their strategy. An example of a client that we've supported recently was Unipart, that went on a full review of their energy efficiency. Replacing lighting systems, put in more motion sensor detectors, LED bulbs, all of that. And it's really helped their profitability as well because in the longer term of course they're paying for less energy as well.

 

Elsa:

As a founding member of the principles for responsible banking we took on board the opportunity to be a leader when it comes to aligning ourselves with society's goals around the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris agreement. It means transitioning our lending portfolio in a way that is thoughtful and aligned with those global goals. It means thinking about how to help our clients to make the transition to a low-carbon economy. And it means thinking about the journey that we're on and the fact that this is a very fast-moving space.

 

David:

So the term green financing is banded about quite a bit, what do we actually mean by that? Well, it's finance to enable clients to do a project that makes them more sustainable. At Barclays we've been

working with Sustainalytics to come up with a green product framework and that's really essentially

about making sure that the things we're financing are actually going to make a difference in terms of sustainability. Using green finance has a couple of real benefits for business. I think the first is it sends a signal externally that you are investing in a more sustainable future for your business. And the second one is that using the framework can really help to focus people's minds on the choices that they're making about investment. And in some cases as well of course there will be incentives within the pricing framework to make it attractive for businesses to take out. I think the financial services sector have got a really key role to play in terms of giving businesses the ability to become more sustainable through the solutions that we offer. Whether that's around things like green asset finance or green loans or within our larger client base things like sustainable revolving credit facilities becoming more common. And the green bond market is becoming really active now as well.

 

Elsa:

It's about transitioning our own business practices thinking about the way we do banking day in and day out across all of our business lines. And also thinking about how we help our clients make the transition to a low-carbon economy. This is an opportunity for everyone to take on board this move to this next generation economy which can make them not only more sustainable but ultimately more competitive and more successful as well. These things go hand in hand and it's a huge opportunity for all of us.

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