EXCLUSIVE: RBS in move to save reputation through sustainability reporting

Royal Bank of Scotland's (RBS) deputy head of sustainability Duncan Young has highlighted the importance of sustainability reporting in shrugging off the negative reputation of his company.

Speaking at the Sustainability Communications Forum today, Young noted that a ranking one year ago showed RBS was the most “reputationally challenged” company in the UK. 

Young argued that it was of the upmost significance to reassure stakeholders of the company’s environmental credentials, given its damaged reputation, caused by the banking crisis, libor scandal and the miss selling of payment protection insurance (PPI).

“Crucial to changing that perception about who we are and how we work comes from our stakeholder engagement and our reporting,” he said.

Young explained that in the past, RBS had been under pressure from NGOs on its relationship with environmentally damaging sectors.

According to Young, NGOs were using publically sourced data to try and provide a ranking of the biggest lenders to environmentally unfriendly industries.

To safeguard what remained of its reputation, RBS therefore compiled a report, which consisted purely of breakdown data, portraying how it had invested in power generation sectors.

The report has been updated three times since it conception and in its most recent addition records the carbon intensity of some of the company’s clients.

Young described this Scope 3 reporting as a particular “challenge” for his team but said that the detailed reports appeased the NGOs and led them to “train their guns” elsewhere.

“We were at the wrong end of an asymmetrical debate which mischaracterised what we were doing, and through a bit of reporting, some stakeholder groups managed to scourge some of those myths,” he said.

Young also noted that board-level support had helped RBS in improving its standards of sustainability reporting.

“Establishing a high-level governance structure has absolutely been the biggest step that we have taken in sustainability at RBS.

“In the past when our culture was less healthier than we are trying to make it now, negative messages rarely made it to the top without a heavy sugar coating along the way,” he said.

Conor McGlone

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie