Co-op Bank cuts CO² emissions by 20% in 12 months

The Co-operative Bank has announced a 20% reduction in its CO² emissions. The bank has also managed to increase its use of renewable energy to 40% of total electricity use and is moving towards its goal of becoming the UK's first PVC-free bank.

“We’ve shown it can be done and we did it in 12 months,” David Smith of the Co-op told edie, referring to the bank’s 20% CO² reductions on 1997 levels. The Co-op’s longer-term goal is to reduce its CO² emissions (based on 1997 levels) by 60% by 2010.

“It saves us money and it also fits in with our ethical and environmental stance,” said Smith. Cuts in CO² emissions in the financial services sector are often the result of increased efficiency and, thus, reductions in overall energy use. Financial services is considered to be a sector that has the greatest potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with a minimum of financial risk or difficulty.

The Co-op uses renewable energy at its London and Salford offices, and since July, has been using electricity generated by a small turbine on the Manchester Ship Canal to provide its Manchester headquarters with ‘green’ energy.

Discussing the bank’s decision to buy energy generated on the Manchester Ship Canal – five miles from its headquarters – Smith emphasised the cost-effectiveness of the renewable energy. “It wasn’t the cheapest option, but it was nowhere near the most expensive,” he said.

The energy generated by the canal-side turbine is part of a project run by ENER-G. The ‘green’ electricity is purchased by the Renewable Energy Company, which sells it onto the Co-operative Bank. The Renewable Energy Company is one of Europe’s largest suppliers of ‘green’ electricity (see related story).

Another Co-op environmental goal involves the phasing out of PVC. “We’ve introduced a material called Biopol. It’s a natural substance that begins life somewhat like the stuff vegetarians eat, Quorn, and is turned into a plastic. At the end of its life span it rots naturally in landfill,” explained Smith. Products like credit cards and plastic covering for computer cables are normally made from PVC.

Co-op offers two affinity credit cards made from Biopol – a Greenpeace card and a card for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. “The RSPB card is one of the most successful affinity cards in the country,” said Smith. “It has raised more than £3 million for RSPB.”

The bank hopes to become the UK’s first PVC-free bank, but supplies of Biopol are a concern at the moment. The company that produces the product is up for sale and the Co-op cannot, at this stage, be sure enough of future supplies to set a firm deadline for the elimination of all PVC.

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