Poll: UK banking customers demanding greener financial services

Cecilia Keating
clock • 2 min read

Deloitte's Better Banking Survey reveals a public increasingly concerned about the social and environmental credentials of the companies entrusted with their money

Banks that finance fossil fuel infrastructure and engage in other types of environmentally destructive activity are running the risk of losing customers, according to recent poll of public attitudes undertaken by Deloitte.

More than 60 per cent of some 1,250 British adults polled in the summer by the consultancy giant said they would leave their bank if they found out it was linked to environmental or social harm, even if it had the best financial offer available.

Financing of fossil fuels was selected by nearly half of respondents as a reason that they would switch banks, according to the findings, which were published last month.

The Better Banking Survey reveals that seven out of 10 people said they would be more likely to choose a bank that had a positive social and environmental impact.

The findings also reveal the majority of customers are satisfied by their banks' environmental and social commitments, with 61 per cent of respondents reporting they thought their bank was "strongly committed" to such issues.

Deloitte's UK sustainability and climate change lead Katherine Lampen noted that the findings reflected growing calls from investors, regulators, and customers for the banking sector to reduce its exposure to climate risk.

"Whilst it is encouraging to see over half of respondents agree that their bank is strongly committed to environmental impact, there is still more to be done," she said. "Covid-19 has highlighted how non-financial risks, such as climate change, are capable of generating significant shocks to businesses and the economy. In order to identify themselves to customers as well-governed and resilient business, banks must prioritise sustainable finance."

The banking sector is under growing pressure from the public and investors to divest from fossil fuels and use its financial clout to instead support the roll out of the technologies and solutions that can enable a net zero carbon future. While a number of prominent banks have now announced plans to achieve net zero emissions across their operations and portfolios by 2050 - including HSBC, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays and Natwest - environmental campaigners have said the pledges are too often accompanied by continued investment in the expansion of the fossil fuel sector.

Deloitte's head of financial services Richard Hammell said climate change was playing a "more prominent role" in customers' decisions, aided by greater access to information about the impact businesses have on society and environment.  "Banks have an opportunity to dial up their efforts, to engage with customers by telling the story of their positive impact, and to use social and environmental impact as a source of innovation for new products and services," he said.

BusinessGreen's Net Zero Finance event will take place on March 17th. More details are available here.

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