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.


Setting ambitious targets


In 2014, we set out our targets for a 20% carbon reduction, 5% water use reduction and 50% paper reduction by 2020. We also committed to diverting all waste we generate away from landfill.

By 2016, we had already reached our carbon, water and paper targets and so looked to set new, ambitious targets with the aim to provide real benefits to both the bank and the environment.


Aligning with climate science


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


Benchmarking our environmental performance


  • RBS achieved a ‘Leadership’ category listing of A- in the CPD index, meaning we are one of the best performing banks in the UK.
  • Our score in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index is 80 and 89 for our Environmental Dimension, indicating we are one of the strongest banks in this area, with the industry average for the Environmental Dimension just 54.


2017 Performance 


The table below details our progress towards our 2020 targets.

Limited assurance over 2017 total scope 1 and 2 location based CO2-e emissions, and scope 3 emissions from business travel provided by Ernst & Young LLP. 

View our 2017 environmental footprint [PDF 42KB] Read RBSG Re-baseline and Restatement Policy 2015 [PDF 557KB]


Our new carbon target of a 45% reduction by 2020 has been set to align RBS’s environmental strategy to climate science, and the targets set by the Paris agreement. We have used a ‘science-based’ method, aiming for a scale of reductions large enough to keep global temperature rises below 2°C.


In 2017 we reduced our total combined Scope 1, 2 and business travel emissions by 39% from a 2014 baseline. Energy use is a major contributor to emissions, and a 24% reduction since 2014 has aided our reductions. However we have also put into place a number of initiatives to reduce the intensity of our emissions, resulting in a 22% reduction in emissions per FTE.


We also get our carbon emissions independently verified each year by an external auditor. 



In 2017, we achieved a 24% decrease in total energy consumption from a 2014 baseline.


Currently all the electricity we purchase in the UK and Ireland is generated from renewable wind energy. This is backed by verified REGOs (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origins). We are currently reviewing our operations outside the UK, in order to make a commitment to the RE100 initiative this year.

Highlights over the last year include:


  • All the electricity we purchase in the UK and Ireland is generated from renewable wind energy. This is backed by verified REGOs (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origins)
  • We rationalised our property space contributing to a reduction in energy consumption
  • We upgraded our Building Management Systems (BMS) in 500 branches, reducing electricity use. A further 400 meter upgrades are planned for the coming year
  • We installed sub-metering at 12 branches, providing invaluable insight into how we consume energy. These findings will drive our energy reductions in 2018 across the entire branch portfolio
  • We installed new BMS and replaced end of life plant equipment at multiple large offices


As of this year we have reduced global business travel carbon emissions by 52% since 2011, hitting our target of 50%. Our ambition now is to maintain this globally and continue reductions in the UK, which are currently 46% from 2011.


A number of factors have contributed to our success:


  • A reduction in long-haul flights, due to our focus on markets in the UK and Ireland, contributed to our lower carbon emissions
  • We have capacity for over 60,000 colleagues to access their desktop remotely
  • There are around five million 'conversations' using online collaboration tools each month






We set our original target of reducing paper use by 50% in 2011 – this was achieved last year. To continue that ambition, we set a new target of achieving a further 60% reduction between 2014 and 2020. Since 2014, we have reduced the total volume of paper we use by 22%.


  • We introduced Secure Inbox, so our customers can receive correspondence online, rather than through the post. Since it was launched this year, more the one million documents have been sent digitally, saving paper, cost and time
  • This year, the bank introduced the UK’s first paperless mortgages, saving 66 sheets of paper for every customer served. This year around 200,000 sheets of paper were saved. When the scheme is rolled out to all customers, we can reduce our use by more than 4.4 million sheets each year 
  • Our colleagues now print 20% less paper for internal use than in 2014. This has been achieved by several proactive measures, including reducing the number of printers available, and installing printers that require users to swipe their pass to start the printing process, helping eliminate printing that is started but never collected




We now divert 97% of our UK waste from landfill. Our target is to achieve zero waste to landfill by 2020.


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


  • Working with our supplier ISS, we have achieved Zero Waste to Landfill in our central London offices and data centres in the UK & Ireland. We continue working with them to reduce landfill waste in other areas
  • By working with our supplier Baxter Storey to trial and introduce new alternative solutions, we removed disposable coffee and water cups from two large offices, saving 450,000 plastic cups in 2017. This year we are continuing this work, removing cups from more offices and trialing other innovations such as compostable food packaging in our head office in Edinburgh
  • During our branch closures in 2017, RBS partnered with GoGreen, a waste management and recycling provider. More than 6,000 assets were assessed, and either reused within the RBS estate, recycled or sold. As a result of the GoGreen project, £10,000 has been raised for 48 beneficiary charities and 100% of the assets have been successfully diverted from landfill
  • We have undertaken a gap analysis with the Carbon Trust to identify where we can make further improvements to reach our ambitious target



We have already hit our 2020 target to reduce water use by 5%, so we have now set a target to double that reduction to 10%. As well as rationalisation in the property portfolio, we also held a staff water efficiency event in May 2017 with Irish Water, in three of our large offices in Ireland and used water-saving technology from the Innovation Gateway to improve our performance.


  • We have used Waterblade tap nozzles in our wash basins to reduce water consumption by 60%
  • We also used Air2Eau to extract moisture from the air to produce 100% sustainable pure drinking water

As of this year, we have reduced consumption by 9.8% since 2014, and are well on our way to achieving our target.

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 5 actions they could do to reduce the environmental impact of the bank.


Off the back of this successful engagement of all employees, we are taking the ideas forwards 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, 5000 RBS employees signed up to JUMP and reported 47,000 positive environmental and sustainable actions in support of the RBS environment targets.   Colleagues signed up in 16 different countries and across 360 different locations in the UK and Ireland
  • Throughout September, colleagues from across the bank took part in Our View 2017, the annual RBS employee survey. The results highlighted that 76% of colleagues agree that RBS is an environmentally responsible company
  • Bank-wide employee campaigns and performance meetings on the cost and environmental impact of wasted resources
  • The RBS environmental roadshow went to offices across the UK to inform colleagues about our targets and performance
  • Facilities managers in the UK are accredited by BIFM following environmental training
  • Over 7,800 colleagues pledged to take part in a zero waste challenge on world environment day 2018

Engage our Suppliers 

We aim to engage our supply chain, in order to have a wider impact outside of our direct footprint.


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 and pollution of land, air and water.


In addition we work with our suppliers in order to reduce our own impact and progress towards our 2020 targets.


Our Innovation Gateway partnership programme engages suppliers to produce innovative solutions to environmental and sustainability issues. 36 innovations have been trailed, with 10 successful products to be rolled out across the RBS estate in 2018. 

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