Empowering change for a sustainable future

This week we released our annual report, which highlighted the ways we directly address our environmental and social conduct.

Our sustainability and governance goals go hand-in-hand with our wider vision – to empower small and medium-sized businesses with financial support, and in turn create jobs, boost productivity, drive innovation, and increase economic prosperity across communities and society at large.

By empowering ambitious and innovative changemakers up and down the UK, we’re supporting both today’s, and tomorrow’s great thinkers leading the way for a sustainable, greener, and fairer future.

What we’ve achieved so far

In 2019, we were one of the first banks to offset our Scope 1 and 2 emissions to become operationally net zero.

Our programme of carbon reduction initiatives, such as powering our UK offices with renewable electricity, helps us continue looking for ways to reduce our emissions, minimising any reliance on offsets. But, even so, we want to push ourselves further and do more.

Stepping up our climate commitments

Our leading data and analytics capabilities, and the best practices and learnings that we share with other banks through our sister entity OakNorth Credit Intelligence, mean we have an opportunity, responsibility, and ambition to lead and deliver on what is the most critical challenge of our time. 

The age and complexity of many banks’ business models means that most have committed to net zero emissions by 2050. To the extent that it’s possible we should all aim to achieve net zero sooner than this. As a young, digitallyminded lender, we feel it is our duty to be more ambitious. 

That’s why we’ve set ourselves a net zero target of 2035.

And that’s for everything – not just our operational emissions, but those of our supply chain, and critically for all the lending we do and the business that we finance.

It’s an ambitious target. And right now, it is just a target. But we’re making the right commitments to turn it into a reality. We don’t have all the answers or solutions yet, but we’re determined to find them, by investing in the right expertise, training, and processes.

We’re joining forces to help industry change happen now

 

 

In June 2021, we joined Tech Zero, a committee of tech companies acting and honestly reporting on their carbon reductions.

To help focus our efforts even further, we’ve signed up to the United Nations Net Zero Banking Alliance, which brings together worldwide banks committed to aligning their lending and investment portfolios with net zero.

This also makes us members of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (“GFANZ”), the global coalition of financial institutions committed to accelerating decarbonisation of the economy and limiting global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees, and participants in the UN Race to Zero campaign.

In the UK, we’re also members of Bankers for Net Zero – an alliance of banks, businesses and regulators dedicated to the transition to net zero. We’ll be supporting Bankers for Net Zero with initiatives on topics that include tooling up the green homes industry, mobilising climate action for SMEs, and promoting the property retrofit revolution.

aerial view of forest and road

 

The road ahead

For us to successfully reach our net zero ambitions we need to have a full understanding of the impact of our lending activity and supply chain. To achieve this, we’ve begun a detailed exercise to identify and calculate our Scope 3 emissions.

We’re also one of the first banks globally to have stress-tested the possible impact of climate risks on our loan book, utilising the OakNorth Climate Impact Framework. Details of this analysis are set out in our annual report, along with the conclusion that OakNorth Bank’s loan book has minimal exposure to climate risk.

Climate change presents a unique opportunity for us to explore new business prospects and support customers seeking to transition to lower-carbon practices.

We’ve already had the privilege of working with some businesses leading the way, such as Verto Homes, the sustainable housebuilder and creator of the internationally acclaimed Zero Carbon Smart Home. Plus, our sister entity, OakNorth Credit Intelligence, is working with other banks to navigate the complex scenarios resulting from climate change with its Climate Impact Framework.

We strive to empower high-growth businesses and in doing so, improve communities and economies globally – but this will be a wasted effort if there is no planet left for future generations to inherit.

Immediate action is needed from us all to protect the earth and reduce the impact of climate change. It’s our responsibility to our customers, our employees, our regulators, our investors, our suppliers, and society as a whole – to help make this happen.

Construction worker fitting solar panels

 

Our wider social impact

Our foundations lie in helping the UK’s most ambitious businesses access the fast, flexible finance they need to scale. Acting sustainably and responsibly goes hand-in-hand with our mission to empower the “Missing Middle”, and we maintain a relentless focus on supporting high-growth businesses and championing social inclusion, equality, opportunity and education.

We have a national presence, but our customers are local, and many are the bedrock of their communities.

Our lending supports projects across senior living, care homes, childcare, early years and education sectors, and we’re extremely proud of the tens of thousands of jobs created, social homes constructed, special educational needs schools, and senior living beds resulting from our financial support.

Our 1% pledge

To deepen our impact, we continue to donate one percent of our group profits to supporting charitable causes and social enterprises and generating some fantastic outcomes from our involvement. This is a commitment we have made since 2018.

We’re excited to see the results of our new ‘Mentorpreneurship’ programme with the LSE unfold – almost 1,800 people have now participated in the programme, with around 500 being mentored so far. Our backing of Pro Bono Economics over several years now is empowering the social sector with its network of 700 volunteers, increasing wellbeing across the UK.

In India, the grassroots NGOs Seva Mandir and Yuva Unstoppable continue to do incredible work providing nutrition, sanitation, and education for hundreds of children with our support. We’ve also helped empower thousands of marginalised women across South Asia with access to education and finance by working with the British Asian Trust.

You can read more about these, and others, in our annual report. The continued wide-ranging support we provide to causes focused on: female empowerment, mental health and wellbeing, social mobility, entrepreneurship, and the preservation of natural resources is something we are proud of, as is our prompt provision of urgent relief in response to Covid-19 and the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.

Our mission remains to empower the “Missing Middle” – businesses that will create more jobs, drive innovation and increase GDP. But when it comes to sustainability, it remains embedded in our approach, and our ambition to help address social and environmental challenges underpins the lasting positive impact we strive for.

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