Direct environmental footprint | RBS

Direct environmental footprint

RBS is committed to reducing the environmental impact of serving our customers. We have targeted four key areas: carbon emissions, waste generation, water and paper use. We are also engaging our stakeholders on environmental issues, both internally and in our supply chain, to encourage wider change.


Aligning with climate science


In setting our carbon emissions reduction target we wanted to show ambition, and align our targets with the goals set out by the Paris Agreement and the UK government’s climate goals. We used a science-based method to set our 45% reduction target by 2020. The table below details our other environmental targets:


Furthering our ambition

We are currently working to set our post-2020 targets. Our science-based targets will help us to further our decarbonisation in line with the requirements of the Paris Agreement set to limit climate change to below 2°C. We are also taking the positive impacts of the circular economy for the environment into consideration. We are considering aligning our targets with both the UK Government 25 year Environment Plan and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). We will publish this in due course.

Benchmarking our environmental performance 

  • RBS has achieved a ‘Leadership’ category listing of A- in the CDP index for the past 3 years, meaning we are one of the best performing banks in the UK. 
  • RBS was also Highly Commended at the 2018 Ethical Corporation Awards, for showing leadership on climate change, both in our investments and for our internal action on our emissions.

2018 environmental performance 


The table below details our progress towards our 2020 targets. (*)

GHG emissions table
View our 2018 environmental footprint [PDF 42KB] Read RBSG Re-baseline and Restatement Policy 2015 [PDF 557KB]


We have set a carbon target of 45% reduction by 2020 to align RBS’s environmental strategy with climate science, and the decarbonisation required to achieve the international Paris climate agreement. In doing so, we have used a science-based method, aiming for a scale of reductions large enough to keep global temperature rises below 2°C.


In 2018 we reduced our total combined Scope 1, 2 and business travel emissions by 49% against a 2014 baseline. Energy use is a major contributor to emissions, and we have seen a 28% reduction in our energy use since 2014.


As can be seen from the 2018 environmental performance table above, our Scope 1 emissions for 2018 have increased. This can be attributed to an increase in ozone-depleting gas consumption; 2017 saw a 71% decrease against the 2014 baseline due to fewer top-ups of refrigerant versus 2018. However, if the average consumption figure over the 2 years is taken, a 3% reduction can be observed against a 2014 baseline.

Our carbon emissions are independently verified each year by an external auditor.


In 2018, we achieved a 28% decrease in total energy consumption against a 2014 baseline. This was possible because of installations of innovative technologies which helped improve efficiency in our offices, branches and data centres.


All the electricity we purchase in the UK and Ireland is generated from renewable wind energy. This is backed by verified Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origins (REGOs). Additionally, we have recently announced our commitment to RE100, pledging to use 100% renewable electricity in our global operations by 2025.

Our highlights in 2018 include:

  • We have upgraded 103 Building Management Systems (BMS) which are reporting 18% energy savings.
  • We have managed to reduce energy consumption by 9% across our Data Centre portfolio by a combination of reducing IT loads, a new data hall and installing new chiller systems.
  • We have installed innovative technologies across our UK portfolio such as 74 LED Plug’n’Play installations, Endotherm and BlackDox. These technologies help us to identify and reduce the inefficiencies in our consumption and therefore improve our environmental impact.
  • We have conducted 19 ESOS (Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme) energy surveys across the portfolio to identify further energy reduction opportunities ahead of 2019 ESOS compliance requirement.


As of this year we have reduced our carbon emissions from business travel by 60% since 2011, surpassing our target of 50%. Our ambition now is to maintain this globally and continue reductions in the UK.


A number of factors have contributed to our success:


  • We have had four ‘no travel weeks’ which reduced the overall levels of business travel. These weeks are designed to engage colleagues and encourage behavioral changes, driving a shift towards virtual meetings and other environmentally friendly practices. This reduced our carbon emissions by over 2,700 tonnes.
  • We installed electric vehicle charging points at our headquarters, supporting our staff to adopt more environmentally friendly lifestyle choices.






Our paper target is to reduce consumption 60% between 2014 and 2020. Since 2014, we have reduced the total volume of paper we use by 21%. An increase in absolute paper consumption in 2018 relative to 2017 can be noted. This was due to new regulatory requirements resulting in an increase in demand for paper communications.

Our highlights in 2018 include:


  • We introduced Secure Inbox so that our customers can receive correspondence online, rather than through the post. This year, we have saved over 8 million envelopes with this initiative.
  • We are also proud to be the first UK bank to introduce paperless mortgages, saving 66 sheets of paper for every customer served.



We now divert 99% of our UK waste from landfill. Our target is to achieve zero waste to landfill by 2020.


Following a recent UK Government announcement to avoid all unnecessary plastic by 2042, there is increasing public awareness in relation to plastic use, especially single use plastic. Whilst RBS is not a significant user of plastic, over the next year we plan to trial and implement measures to help eliminate single use plastic where possible.

Our highlights in 2018 include:

  • Through staff collaboration and working closely with our suppliers, we have reduced the total volume of disposable plastic cups in our large offices by four million. We aim to continue this progress in 2019, with more facilities going disposable cup free.
  • We worked collaboratively with our supplier ISS to engage staff on recycling changes, to reduce contamination of recyclable waste and increase the amount that can be recycled.
  • Together with ISS, we have achieved Zero Waste to Landfill for Ulster Bank and in our central London offices and data centers in UK & Ireland. We are now applying for Zero Waste to Landfill accreditation.
  • In our full 2018 environmental footprint table, an increasing figure of relative consumption emissions per FTE can be observed for our waste data and water data. This was due to changes in our real estate portfolio; there is no correlation between FTEs and total waste disposed.


Our target is to reduce water consumption by 10% against a 2014 baseline. As of this year, we have reduced consumption by 21% since 2014, achieving our target.


  • We have installed soaked atomizers which drive a 70% reduction in water usage and plan on rolling these out across our large office portfolio.
  • We also used Air2Eau to extract moisture from the air to produce 100% sustainable pure drinking water.

  • In our full 2018 environmental footprint table, an increasing figure of relative consumption per FTE can be observed for our water data. Almost half of water is used in data centres, core building infrastructure and hospitality and is therefore not correlated to FTE figures.

Engage every colleague

In April 2018, we ran a week long bank wide activity, which challenged every single employee to come up with a top five actions they could do to reduce the environmental impact of the bank. Over 700 suggestions were made by staff for areas of improvement and we are taking these ideas forward to make improvements, and increase engagement further.

In addition to this we continue to use various means to reach colleagues, inform them of the work we are doing to minimize our operational impact and encourage them to make sustainable choices:

  • Since 2017, 5,000 RBS employees have signed up to JUMP and reported 47,000 positive environmental and sustainable actions in support of the RBS environment targets. This includes colleagues in 16 different countries and across 360 different locations in the UK and Ireland.

  • Over 7,800 colleagues pledged to take part in a zero waste challenge on world environment day 2018.

  • We have installed Measure My Energy in London branches, engaging employees through quick and easy access to data and patterns, with the aim to increase awareness and decrease consumption.

Engage our suppliers

  • We are working closely with our suppliers and partners to help us be more sustainable at work. Our suppliers are expected to follow the RBS Supplier Code of Conduct meaning they manage their operations in accordance with good environmental practice, including policies and procedures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, water use, waste generation, consumption of finite natural resources pollution of land, air and water.
  • In addition we work together with our suppliers in order to reduce our own impact and progress towards our 2020 targets, for example we have worked closely with ISS to help reduce our waste through co-innovation and engagement.

  • We have worked with our suppliers, Brand Addition, to enable eco-friendly products to be added to our procurement catalogue.

  • Our Innovation Gateway partnership programme engages suppliers to produce innovative solutions to environmental and sustainability issues. Our most recent request has been for creative solutions to plastic waste, and we are looking forward to exploring these in 2019.
(*)Limited assurance provided by Ernst & Young LLP.

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