Operational environmental footprint | RBS


Important: We have published information about our new strategy and purpose, please see the Strategic Report and supporting announcements to find out more.

Operational environmental footprint

RBS has set a bold ambition to be a leading bank helping to address the climate challenge. To support this, our goal is that our own direct operations are net zero in 2020 and climate positive by 2025.

Increasing our ambition to become climate positive


RBS has set ambitious new goals to continue our decarbonisation, aiming to be climate positive by 2025 for our own operations through a combination of emissions reductions in line with a 1.5ᵒC science-based target and carbon offsetting.  Whilst we understand offsetting isn’t the long term solution, we feel that it is the best way to mitigate our impact whilst we focus on eliminating our emissions at source.

In order to take our emissions to net zero in 2020 we will offset all Scope 1, 2 and 3 (business travel) emissions from our own operations this year through the purchase of internationally recognised carbon credits.

We will maintain this level of offsetting and similtaneously reduce emissions from our own operations a further 25% by 2025 from our 2019 baseline, so that we offset more carbon than we emit. This will move us beyond net zero to become climate positive.

We will also place more focus on our value chain maintaining Zero Waste to Landfill United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland (UK & RoI), eliminating unnecessary single-use plastics, and reducing waste 20% by 2025.

These goals have been set in alignment with UK and devolved  government  strategies , the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and circular economy approach.

RBS was jointly the first company globally to commit to all three of the  Climate Group Initiatives pledging to:

  • Use only renewable electricity in our direct global operations by 2025 (RE100).
  • Install electric vehicle charging infrastructure in more than 600 spaces across our UK & RoI portfolio by 2030 (EV100).
  • Upgrade our job car fleet of around 300 vehicles to electric models by 2025 (EV100).
  • Reduce our energy consumption 40% by 2025 against its 2015 baseline (EP100).

The table below details our new 2025 environmental targets:

2019 environmental performance


The table below details our 2019 achievements:

View our 2019 environmental footprint [PDF 238KB]


In 2019, we reduced our total combined Scope 1, 2 and 3 (business travel) emissions by 61% against a 2014 baseline. Energy use is a major contributor to the bank’s emissions, and we have seen a 39% reduction in our energy use since 2014.


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


Carbon emissions table


In 2019, we achieved a 39% decrease in total energy consumption against a 2014 baseline. This was possible through a combination of portfolio reductions and an energy management programme which facilitated the installation of innovative and efficient technologies throughout our offices, branches and data centres in the UK and RoI.


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


Our highlights in 2019 include:


  • We reduced energy consumption across our data centre portfolio by 24% against a 2014 baseline. This was done by reducing IT loads, optimising data hall utilisation, installing efficient IT hardware and upgrading cooling systems.

  • Our energy team operate an ‘out-of-hours’ programme, designed to ensure buildings are using minimal energy outside of working hours, saving approximately 2.2 million kWh per annum.

  • We developed an Invest-2-Save forum for our contractors and suppliers, through which they can submit energy savings proposals. As a result, we upgraded 67 Building Management Systems (BMS) which have reduced uncontrolled energy consumption.

  • Following the ESOS Compliance audits in 2018, working groups were established to review and implement the efficiency recommendations. 4,639,907 kWh of energy savings were thus realised through close collaboration across internal and external stakeholders.


We have reduced our carbon emissions from global business travel by 70% since 2011, surpassing our target of 50%. This is a 55% reduction per employee (FTE).  Since 2018, we have reduced the number of flight miles by 47.3m (25%), and have continued to encourage virtual meetings in order to reduce emissions from business travel. In 2019, RBS upgraded over 200 videoconferencing rooms in the UK & RoI and launched a new video-conferencing software for smartphones which is now used by over 51,000 colleagues.


We have committed to EV100, pledging to upgrade our job need cars to electric vehicles and install charging points at 600 parking spaces across our office portfolio by 2030.


Since 2014, we have reduced the total volume of paper we use by 42%.


Our highlights in 2019 include:


  • We’ve expanded our Secure Online Inbox facility for personal banking customers, with more than 11.3m documents sent digitally rather than via print and post.

  • We have also moved towards more paperless credit card activity, resulting in 400k fewer printed statements being produced each month.

  • Internally, we’ve improved how colleagues print documents, automatically cancelling over 10m uncollected printouts and scanned over 12m physical documents into a digital format.


We have achieved our 2020 target of Zero Waste to Landfill, in the UK and RoI, gaining accreditation from Carbon Trust. We work with suppliers to follow a waste hierarchy so that waste is reused, recycled or sent to a waste to energy facility.


Carbon Trust Standard Zero Waste to Landfill logo

Our 2019 highlights include:


  • By working with waste manager GoGreen we reused 3580 furniture items within our property portfolio, reducing the need to buy new items. 1730 unused furniture items were also donated to 82 different charities.

  • We work with Fujitsu to refurbish and reuse any unwanted IT equipment.

  • We reused or resold 45% of our surplus IT equipment, with the remainder being recycled.


Waste pie chart - 73.4% Recycled waste, 23.1% Waste to energy, 3.4% Organics recycling, 0.3% Unaviodable landfill, 0.8% Re-use and Re-manufacturing
*0.3% of waste goes to landfill where there is no suitable alternative. This can occur when waste is hazardous or is produced in rural/offshore locations areas with no recycling options.


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. We are committed to eliminating single use plastic where possible.


Our 2019 highlights include:


Our Cash and Coin centres undertook a ‘Plastic Fantastic’ project, which has completely eliminated plastic overwraps from all the cash issued by our cash centres, resulting in an annualised reduction in 1.8 million plastic bags / overwraps and 300 rolls of shrink wrap plastic, and recycled over 500kgs of elastic bands.


  • Across our building portfolio an estimated 1.8 million single use plastic cups were saved in 2019 by staff using reusable cups for their free vends. Plastic cups have now been eliminated from our Gogarburn campus, our London flagship building 250 Bishopsgate, our Coutts office at 440 Strand and our offices in Poland. From 2020 onwards, Gogarburn will be disposable cup free, saving over 1 million cups per year.

  • Our team members in Poland have removed all single use plastic cups from their buildings and replaced plastic cutlery with metal.

  • In 2019, RBS issued 10.2 million credit and debit cards to customers, a reduction of 12% on the previous year. RBS also launched a new, more durable debit card in 2019. This card only needs to be replaced every 4 years rather than the usual 3 years, thereby further reducing the plastic issued by the bank.

  • We have engaged with suppliers to reduce single use plastic where possible. For example, uniform supplier Incorporatewear have now removed single use plastics such as shirt clips and collar stands from their packaging.


As of this year, we have reduced consumption by 29% since 2014, achieving our target of 10%.


  • We have restructured our water contract for UK & RoI. By moving to a single supplier, we have been able to improve data quality and ensure more consistent monitoring of water use.

  • In addition to reducing water, we have worked to provide appropriate water management practices on site. In 2019, a canopy was constructed above the loading bay at Gogarburn to collect rainwater and divert it from the Scottish Water network into our sustainable urban draining system (SUDS) on campus. SUDS provide a natural approach to managing draining and have multiple benefits including reducing water pollution and flooding.

Engage every colleague

In 2019, we used virtual solutions and in-house social media to engage with staff on the environment. We wanted to set the example and reduce travel whilst increasing awareness amongst colleagues of the work we are doing to minimise our operational impact and encourage them to make sustainable choices.


Our highlights in 2019 include:


  • Our “Environment at Work” intranet site provides colleagues with information on sustainability within their workplace. This has had 3,878 views with 46% of interactions being waste-related.

  • We use the banks internal social media platform, Workplace, to have open dialogue between colleagues on their environmental actions, needs and plans. This has been a great tool for engagement and collaboration, with over 2,400 members.

  • The banks employee opinion survey canvases staff on their views on sustainability, with over 58,000 responses.

  • The bank created its first Employee Led Network on the Environment called Sustainable Futures. This enables colleagues to get more involved in making the change they want to see at work.

Engage our suppliers

We are working closely with our suppliers and partners to help us become more sustainable. Our suppliers must adhere to the RBS Supplier Code of Conduct, ensuring 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.


  • We have worked with suppliers Brand Addition (branded goods) and Banner (stationery) to enable eco-friendly products to be added to our procurement catalogue. Banner replaced 246 plastic products with more sustainable options. Brand Addition have upgraded the catalogue so that plastic items are either made from plant plastic, recycled content or can be recycled through curbside recycling.

  • Our Innovation Gateway partnership programme engages suppliers to produce innovative solutions to environmental issues. Our most recent request has been for creative solutions to plastic waste, such as removing plastic cups, cutlery and stationery, and we are looking forward to exploring these further in 2020.

  • We worked closely with our waste suppliers, ISS and Aramark, to deliver the Zero Waste to Landfill accreditation for the UK & RoI.

  • Our UK&I catering suppliers have implemented many initiatives to support the reduction of single use plastic and waste, including giving our staff a discount for using their own cup for hot beverages. They replaced polystyrene take away boxes with plant-based plastics and cardboard alternatives in our HQ building and will continue rolling out new initiatives such as replacing plastic cutlery with metal versions.
(*)Limited assurance provided by Ernst & Young LLP.
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