The past year has been a challenging one for many businesses — there has been a lot to contend with in relation to both the coronavirus pandemic and also the UK’s exit from the EU.
So, for many companies, climate change perhaps hasn’t been high on their list of priorities.
But climate change will, no doubt, move further and further up the agenda for companies, such is its importance. And indeed, the green economy provides an opportunity for jobs and growth.
That is why we are pleased to support the new award in this year’s Belfast Telegraph Business Awards, in partnership with Ulster Bank, to recognise climate action by companies.
Action on climate change is extremely important to Ulster Bank and our parent bank NatWest.
Tackling climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our time and as a leading bank, we have a significant responsibility, and the ability, to encourage, enable and lead the way to transition to a net zero carbon economy.
Our CEO Alison Rose has outlined the bank’s strong commitments in this area, which includes reducing the bank’s own impact on the environment by offsetting our carbon footprint and making our own buildings and activities more energy efficient, and also by looking at what we’re funding.
In this respect, NatWest Group will stop lending and underwriting major oil and gas producers, unless they have a credible transition plan in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement by the end of 2021.
We have developed ways to assess the credibility of transition plans of customers in oil, gas and coal and have already reduced lending in those sectors.
Our relationship teams are also being trained and equipped to have climate related discussions with customers about things like EPC certificates, renewable energy and the use of landfill, and we’ve committed to having 25% of places or more in our Entrepreneur Accelerator going to green businesses.
Our partnership with Octopus Energy — a leading sustainable energy supplier — also helps us to support customers to move their fleets towards electric vehicles.
And further training our people is another area of focus so that we can help customers to make choices and investments to reduce their impact on the environment.
A signal of NatWest Group’s commitment in this area is its partnership with the COP26 climate summit later this year.
The bank also achieved net zero carbon in 2020 and plans to be climate positive for our own operations by 2025.
We believe that introducing the award for climate action into this year’s Belfast Telegraph Business Awards is the right thing to do and we know that companies locally are doing really good things to reduce their carbon footprint.
I have no doubt we will have some strong entries to the award, and we can showcase some best practice in a way that encourages more and more companies to play a positive role in addressing the climate challenge.
Kenton Hilman is Head of Corporate and Property Banking at Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland.
Belfast Telegraph Business Awards
Are you thinking about throwing your hat in the ring? Here are the categories that you should consider entering. And remember, the closing date is Thursday 6th May, 12 noon.
Categories and their sponsors
Best Large Company: Wilson Nesbitt
Best Agri Business of the Year: Asda
Retailer of the Year: Retail NI
Excellence in Exporting: Invest NI
Excellence in the Development of Management and Leadership: Ulster University Business School
Excellence in Health and Wellbeing: Hastings Hotels
Best Use of Digital/Social Media: Sparq
Excellence in Innovation: OSG Cloud
Excellence in Corporate Social Responsibility: Queen’s University, Belfast
Special Recognition Award for Climate Action: Ulster Bank
Young Business Person of the Year: Smurfit Kappa
Excellence in Marketing: Belfast Academy of Marketing
Best Small/Medium Business: Prescient Data Centre
Best Emerging Start-Up: Scottish Provident Building
Enter the Belfast Telegraph Business Awards here.