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Banking for positive change

Gwyn Rhodes, director of business banking at Triodos Bank UK, explains why we need a holistic approach to achieving net zero
Banking for positive change

Main image courtesy of Trees for Life

This article first appeared in our COP27 special issue of My Green Pod Magazine, published on 10 November 2022. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

When organisations and policymakers talk about mitigating climate change, much emphasis is placed on carbon reduction targets.

It’s easy to think about the road to net zero purely in terms of reducing carbon – without thinking about the wider impact on people and nature.

Our planet, and everything on it, is part of one interconnected system, which is why, at Triodos Bank, we look at the journey to net zero in a holistic sense.

Our own goal is to reach net zero across our operations, loans and investments by 2035 and we will continue to reduce all emissions across our portfolio beyond the net zero target, going beyond carbon neutrality and aiming to be carbon negative and nature positive.

‘As One To Zero’

Our strategy is called As One To Zero, because if we’re going to reach net zero – and meaningfully address the climate crisis – we need to do it as one.

We want to reduce emissions while respecting our planet’s boundaries and achieving social inclusion for all, to take into account social and cultural considerations as we decarbonise. A journey where no one gets left behind.

As a lender, this means increasing financial support to initiatives that conserve and restore nature, back renewable energy generation, retrofit our built environment and focus on transitioning vital services like healthcare and transport.

Supporting renewables

Triodos Bank has long been committed to renewable energy; when we started out, only a tiny amount of the UK’s electricity was produced by renewables, and investment in the sector was innovative and groundbreaking. That number is now around 40%.

We’ll continue to support the renewable energy sector because we all need that percentage to keep rising; it is a cornerstone of decarbonisation, but a much wider transformation is required. Sustainability isn’t just about an energy transition, it’s also about making sure we support people and communities. 

Communities & housing

Our business banking customers also include housing providers that are harnessing renewable energy to improve the environmental sustainability of their homes while benefiting the local communities in which they operate.

Fyne Energy has received finance to support the creation of a 6.9 megawatt wind farm in Argyll and Bute.

The project aims to produce enough clean energy to power around 4,000 local housing association households.

Another customer we work with is the Rural Urban Synthesis Society (RUSS), a community-owned not-for-profit that provides sustainable and affordable housing.

The development RUSS is working on in Ladywell, South London is a model for creating a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable neighbourhood of high-quality homes.

Investing in the natural world

Restoring our natural environment and reversing biodiversity loss are crucial for our future economic prosperity and wellbeing, as well as preventing, and becoming more resilient to, climate change.

Through a bond offer on our crowdfunding platform, Scottish charity Trees for Life has been able to raise £2 million to part-fund the world’s first rewilding centre in the Highlands.

Showcasing action on the nature and climate emergencies, the project will create green jobs and provide people with inspiring – and galvanising – experiences.

We continue to explore models for nature-based investing. Rather than exploiting the environment, we aim to create an economy that reflects and fully values the vital role that nature plays, and creates the drivers needed to ensure its protection.

Driving change

Ever since Triodos Bank was first established in the Netherlands in 1980 – and in the UK in 1995 – we’ve been guided by our mission to direct money into organisations that are delivering positive social and environmental impact.

COP27 will once again highlight the very urgent need to tackle the climate crisis, and we provide a model of what our financial system could do if it plays its part in supporting and helping to drive the changes needed.

We know finance has the power to be a force for good, and our banking and financial services are for organisations that want to change the world for the better.

We focus on impact, rather than a swift financial return, and on building a long-term relationship that delivers financing solutions to support a brighter future.

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