Westpac NZ has announced a raft of new of sustainability initiatives including expanding interest-free loans for making homes warmer, a pilot of a sustainable farming finance loan, a commitment to aligning with a net zero emissions future, and the release of a new Responsible Banking and Investment Position.
Westpac NZ chief executive Catherine McGrath says the bank is focused on supporting customers who want to take positive action.
“Climate change is a growing threat to our environment, communities and business. Cutting emissions reduces risk, helps protect the world we live in for future generations and also creates opportunities to do things in new ways.
“Over the past 10 years we’ve reduced emissions from our own operations at Westpac NZ by 60%. With today’s announcement we’re lifting our game across the bank to support our customers to reduce their carbon emissions.
Westpac’s Warm Up loan is being expanded and customers can now borrow up to $40,000 interest-free to make their home warmer, drier, more sustainable and energy efficient. As well as the increased limit, electric vehicle chargers and solar batteries have been added to the items that can now be funded through the loan.
“We’ve already lent more than $30 million interest-free through Westpac Warm Up and aim to get to $100 million. As well as supporting customers to live more sustainably, these loans also help with cost of living pressures through the zero interest charged and in many cases reduced energy costs,” McGrath said.
Westpac NZ is also piloting new Sustainable Agribusiness Loans with a small group of farming customers.
“The loan is the first of its kind to require a customer to meet all parts of the Sustainable Agriculture Finance Initiative guidance,” McGrath said.
“ This guidance includes practices to reduce emissions, improve long-term resilience and deliver more sustainable outcomes in terms of water, waste, pollution and ecosystems.”
Once farmers commit to meet the guidance, they have two years to achieve that goal and will be supported with discounted loan pricing.
The loans are expected to be rolled out more widely next year.
Ms McGrath says Westpac Group, including Westpac NZ, has signed up to the UN-convened Net-Zero Banking Alliance.
“This confirms Westpac’s commitment to a net zero lending portfolio by 2050, while also setting lending emissions targets for 2030.
“Moving forward, we’ll be working closely with our big business customers – in certain sectors – that want to access lending, to establish how they’re managing climate-related risk and what they’re doing to decarbonise.”
Ms McGrath says the bank is speeding up its response to climate change.
“We know New Zealanders want more than promises and platitudes from businesses when it comes to climate change. We’re taking action in our own business and these initiatives provide tangible pathways for customers who want to take action as well.”
The release of Westpac NZ’s Responsible Banking and Investment Position wraps together the way environmental, social and governance factors guide activity across the bank in a clear and simple summary for customers.
“It also spells out plainly where we’re not willing to do business. For example we don’t lend to coal mining companies, or provide banking services to payday lenders and mobile truck shops.”