Every business and consumer should take steps on the journey to tackle climate change while a focused evaluation was needed to decide which big carbon cutting schemes should move forwards.
Those were key messages from a roundtable on climate change hosted by NatWest in conjunction with Business Live.
It saw business and other organisation leaders talk about the big and small measures everyone can take – with Ashley Rogers, commercial director of the North Wales Mersey Dee Business Council, saying “this can’t be business as usual”.
Nick Curle, NatWest chief audit executive, said: “There is a danger that this seems such a massive thing that no one knows where to start, either as an individual or as part of an organisation, small or large.
“All the opportunities there are to make little interventions that are practical and achievable start those many millions of steps that are meaningful in themselves. If they also make the impossible start to feel possible, practical, and achievable, that then builds momentum.”
Mark Finlay, chief commercial officer at Wrexham based Moneypenny, said they have a roadmap that started with their headquarters which includes a ground source heat pump, LED lighting and recycled rainwater.
He added: “You can’t do everything all at once and it’s about a trajectory, being on the right path, because for a business they want to be environmentally friendly but there is a cost to that sometimes. There is a real world balance, commerciality versus environmental initiatives, it is about showing willingness. You might not be able to do it today but it’s on the roadmap.
“Our next steps are electric charging points in the car park, ‘Boris bikes’ for staff, and we are also looking at our home workers’ impact as well.”
Mr Finlay said it was important for firms to start that journey as many businesses that wanted bank funding or to work with larger corporates often now needed to show that commitment.
He added: “Brands are majoring on their environmental credentials and it is crucial to their brand values.
“I would look for the small wins and have a roadmap showing your commitment rather than thinking you have to do all this tomorrow. Make it incremental and achievable.”
Julian Brooks, director NatWest commercial banking, North Wales and Cheshire, said that “knowledge sharing” about where to start and what support was available was crucial to help small businesses make changes.
He added: “We are not just here to share money to facilitate change but also help with that knowledge share and connectivity.”
A small example highlighted was a project by Refurbs Flintshire – part of Groundwork North Wales – to take on a former HSBC bank in Buckley to open a repair and reuse centre.
Karen Balmer, CEO for Groundwork North Wales said: “This is to help local communities so instead of sending things to landfill we can potentially repurpose goods or repair them.
Mr Brooks added: “This demonstrates some of the brilliant but simple things people can do both individually and collectively to make a difference.”
Robert Begbie, chief executive officer at NatWest Markets, said: “We finance Dogger Bank which is the biggest wind farm that is going to be in existence and that is great, an obvious example of where we can play a part. But it is about when you get outside of the more obvious places to look at, how we create journeys for all customers to meet those future (Net Zero) objectives.
“How does an individual understand their own actions and carbon footprint? Not everyone can have a specialist piece of work done to look into it and anyway it is very complex.
“As an organisation we have a huge amount of data and we have the capability to be able to help customers understand.
“We are all on a path and it is complicated but we need to make it simple.”
An example was a tool in their banking app that gave customers an estimate of their carbon footprint based on spending on debit and credit cards.
Mr Curle said those who have looked at that function have changed behaviours and on average reduced carbon footprint by 11 kilograms per person per month – which if extrapolated across all customers could lead to 1m kilograms less carbon over a year.
Ashley Rogers talked about the big schemes in North Wales that could have a major impact on tackling climate change.
He said there was an “embarrassment of riches” when considering the potential renewable and carbon reducing projects in North Wales, from the HyNet hydrogen scheme to solar, wind, tidal and small nuclear reactors.
He said: “These are fundamentally about energy production for heating, lighting and transport.”
He said there had to be real commitment as “we can’t miss the targets” on reducing carbon or there would be “real life implications for all of us”.
He added: “This can’t be business as usual.
“The one thing that would help deliver all of these, because there is huge potential in North Wales, is having the right evaluation criteria for these investments – incorporating Net Zero and the environmental and economic impact.
“With the right criteria we can start taking very clear timely decisions on which projects should move forward and where we should focus because a shotgun approach is not going to work.
“Our region’s journey to Net Zero has to be managed, just like any other budget or business target and that means a common sense approach of making sure we plan and deliver investments that support our economy and communities, in the most carbon efficient way possible.
“The alternative is no longer acceptable given the growing impact of climate change on our residents and local businesses.”
Mr Begbie said there is an enormous amount of money trying to find a home to support sustainable projects, large and small.
He added: “That is accelerating beyond recognition to the point where there is more money there than necessarily demand for it right now.”
He said there was a lot of work helping businesses and other organisations access that money and get it to where it is required.
He added: “We also want to create our own carbon budget so that every line item on the balance sheet and everything we do is driven by decisions around this. Rather than a series of initiatives how does the organisation operate with this at its core and it becomes the normal BAU (business as usual). We still have a way to go but the pace is accelerating.”
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