Sustainability FAQs

What is our policy on the environment?

RBS recognises the significant global threat posed by environmental issues such as climate change and biodiversity loss. We take our responsibilities in these areas seriously and are committed to promoting sustainability within our business and raising awareness of environmental issues with customers, employees and suppliers to take appropriate actions.

As a major global provider of financial services, we affect the environment directly through our own operational activities and indirectly through the activities of our customers and suppliers across the world. The environmental challenges facing us all include our use of resources, the creation of pollution, the effects of our activities on climate change, and our impact on species and habitats. It is important that we not only monitor our own behaviour but also encourage others to adopt best practice.

Our aim is to make our environmental impact a central consideration in the way we conduct our business, and to continue to raise the level of environmental awareness among our people, customers and suppliers.

Within our direct business operations, our policy is designed to conserve resources, prevent pollution, meet the present and likely future regulatory environmental standards, minimise waste, and promote the efficient use of energy, raw materials, manufactured products and natural resources.

Read more about our environment policy (PDF 25KB)

What is our role in the transition to a Low Carbon economy?

RBS fully supports the transition towards a low carbon economy. We use our position as a global financial services company to lead and support our stakeholders in addressing this critical global challenge. We are engaged in meaningful and positive actions to develop and implement the immediate and long-term investments required.

As a global financial services group, we have relationships with several companies across the energy industry. We support these customers as they develop and implement their investment strategies for developing, implementing and expanding the future potential capacity for low carbon energy.

Innovative new products that provide environmental benefits are increasingly offered and supported across our wide range of businesses. We support the government, business and other stakeholders in addressing the climate change challenge through a combination of:

  • lending to low carbon energy projects including onshore and offshore wind, solar PV and biomass generation
  • providing loans for installation of energy efficient technologies in large buildings
  • reducing our own energy use and procuring over 59% of the electricity we use in our buildings worldwide from renewable sources

We actively support the UK government's ambitious targets for increasing renewable energy capacity in the most cost-effective way. We are one of the world's leading providers of finance to renewable energy and have maintained this position for several years.

The global demand for energy will mean that fossil fuels will remain part of the energy mix for some time to come and we are therefore also focussed on supporting the more efficient use of these resources.

What is our policy on Human Rights?

We are committed to respecting and upholding human rights in all areas of our operations and within our sphere of influence, as expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Global Compact.

Within our own operations, we regularly review our policies and procedures to ensure that we operate to best practice in this area. We select our people solely on the basis of merit, and actively recruit from the widest available pool of talent, advertising internally and externally to give us the best possible choice for selection and to avoid the possibility of discrimination.

Beyond our own operations, we have in place a number of initiatives to ensure that we take account of human rights in our broader sphere of influence:

To ensure that we operate to consistent standards globally, we have adopted a number of internationally accepted codes, notably the Equator Principles and the UN Global Compact, which specifically address the management of human rights issues.

Our Ethical Code for Suppliers (PDF - 58k) sets out our expectations of the companies that we work with. Based on the UN Global Compact, it specifically addresses human rights. Social and environmental performance is taken into account when selecting key suppliers and we conduct regular reviews against the Ethical Code for suppliers.

We expect that all our customers conduct their business strictly in accordance with the legal and regulatory framework set out by their relevant operational jurisdiction. We assess each lending, investment and services decision on an individual basis through our defined risk and credit committee procedures and take into account relevant social, ethical and environmental issues as a part of that process.

What is our statement on the defence sector?

RBS acts in accordance with the strict regulation and licensing arrangements set by the UK government, and by relevant international standards, when engaging with companies involved in the design, manufacture, support and trade of defence equipment. When considering complex and evolving defence-related matters, such as landmines and cluster munitions, we adhere to policy guidance from the UK government and the appropriate international legal standards.

Please see our Defence Sector Position Statement (PDF 24KB) for more information.

How do we deal with our suppliers with regards to environmental and social issues?

We have a long-standing programme of engagement with key suppliers to manage environmental and social issues. Supplier Capability Assessments (SCA) and Supplier Performance Assessments (SPA) are used to assess performance, and both these processes include social and environmental performance criteria that are taken into account when selecting and retaining suppliers.

To set out the standards that we expect of the suppliers we work with, we issued a Sustainable Procurement Code (PDF 44KB) in 2013.  This code replaced the Group's Ethical Code for Suppliers which had been in place since 2004.

What is our ethical policy for customer lending and investments?

RBS recognises that our responsibilities extend outside of our commercial business interests, and that we play an important role in supporting the growth and stability of the economies in which we trade.

We also recognise the importance of ensuring we conduct our business scrupulously according to the laws and regulations laid down by governments and contained within internationally accepted codes and standards. In the UK, we adhere to the regulations of the Prudential Regulation Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority and, where applicable, the guidance set out by the Lending Standard Board. In countries where there may be competing legal jurisdictions we always seek to act according to the most stringent (usually UK) legal and regulatory standards.

We also embrace external principles and standards when applying our business ethics. In 2003 we were among the first of the leading banks to adopt the Equator Principles, which set internationally agreed standards for socially and environmentally responsible project finance, and we are signatories to the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact. We believe that, taken together, these standards provide the legal and ethical framework within which we must operate as a responsible business.

Within this framework, our firm commitment is to lend responsibly. It is not in our interest to enter into unsustainable commercial agreements, or to lend to organisations, or individuals, which could damage the bank's reputation. We therefore have in place at all levels throughout RBS's rigorous risk and credit management policies and procedures, regularly reviewed, which take into account the wide range of factors relevant to all aspects of our business.

What are we doing to combat money laundering?

RBS operates strict controls to prevent and detect attempts to launder money. We co-operate closely with the different government and international agencies involved. Specialised teams and sophisticated technologies are in place to ensure that potentially criminal transactions are identified. In addition our employees are trained in the banking industry's "know your customer" procedures. A programme of communication and continuous training is in place to ensure that all our staff are aware of their obligations.

Do we make political donations?

RBS is strictly non-political in all our activities. We make no contribution to political parties, and we have no political association with any party. As bankers, we have banking relationships at national and local level with most of the established political parties, who are treated in the same way as other customers.

However, we do, as a matter of good business practice, keep in close touch with government and ensure that, whenever issues arise which may affect the operation of our business and the interests of our customers or shareholders, we discuss these with the authorities concerned.

Furthermore, we do not permit or condone any form of corruption or bribery, and our RBS Code of Conduct (PDF 122KB) contains guidance to steer staff through potential problem areas, such as inappropriate relationships, conflicts of interest and the giving and receiving of hospitality.

What is our position on lending to the companies involved with animal testing?

As a minimum we seek to ensure that companies and public sector bodies engaged in research involving animals comply fully with all relevant regulatory and licensing requirements, and we support the pharmaceutical sector's move to increase the use of alternatives to the use of animals in research.