Managing the risks and opportunities of climate change

Karen Silk, Westpac NZ General Manager Commercial Corporate and Institutional Banking
Managing the risks and opportunities of climate change

The science, economic cost and social risks of climate change are becoming increasingly clear and business has an important role to play in shifting to a low carbon economy.

Business makes up roughly two thirds of the world’s economy so if business isn’t driving solutions to climate change we won’t succeed.

KarenSilk CleanTech

Karen Silk

At a company level, reducing emissions and using resources efficiently makes good business sense. Running a sustainable business can reduce costs, manage long term risks and open up new business opportunities.

Since 2008, Westpac NZ has reduced electricity use by 54%, saving around $4 million a year at today’s prices. In the last three years we have gained new business by making over $300m in new lending available to the clean technology and environmental services (CleanTech) sector. This has been achieved through a strategic focus on CleanTech businesses and working hard to understand them better.

This is good for the planet and our bottom line.

The business risks of climate change are real. An increasing price on carbon will impact every business and every consumer to some degree. We know the longer we wait to take action, the harder it will be and the more it will cost us. Some businesses will be impacted severely if we don’t manage this risk.

New Zealand is a significant exporter of primary produce and we have abundant clean energy resources. We are a leader in technology and innovation. We are also vulnerable to climate impacts and we have a strategic interest in mitigating climate change and ensuring our businesses and communities are resilient.

At Westpac, we want to run a sustainable business and we want to help our customers manage the risks and maximise the business opportunities of climate change.

In our own business we have set targets to reduce carbon emissions by 4% over the next two years, on top of a 35% cut since 2008, and to make $100 million in new funding available to the CleanTech sector to support its growth.

We have released a new Energy Efficient Lease product to help our large business customers invest in energy efficiency with no upfront cost.

We have also committed to remaining carbon neutral and are setting new standards of transparency in New Zealand banking by committing to publicly disclosing our level of lending to the fossil fuel and CleanTech sectors in our annual Sustainability Review.

We encourage other businesses to make commitments and set targets to drive action.

Solutions to climate change will require information sharing and collaborative problem solving. We are up for the challenge and committed to working with other businesses, community groups and Government to tackle these issues.

 A new global agreement in Paris would provide a clearer pathway for businesses to invest in the solutions that would drive that transition, but regardless of the outcome, business needs to take action and lead in this space.

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