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Serving the common good

Blogs Published: November 11, 2021 11:55 am

Commentary from Mark Clayton, Chief Operating Officer at Unity Trust Bank

Sustainability and corporate responsibility are ‘must haves’ for any business and are at the heart of everything we do at Unity Trust Bank.

Established in 1984 to serve the common good, our values have never been more important than they are today.

We believe ethical banking has a pivotal role to play in making the world a better place and are committed to delivering social impact, not simply maximising profits.

We only lend to like-minded organisations that want to positively contribute to the social, economic, and environmental needs of local communities. Recent research carried out by Elavon Merchant Services, our global payments partner, revealed that more and more people are making better informed choices about how they spend their money.

Of 1,100 adults surveyed, 90 per cent said they want to purchase from businesses that are responsible and sustainable and plan to increase buying from brands with ethical credentials.

Supporting local businesses and having a fair supply chain were the main drivers for 90 per cent of respondents, and 89 per cent cited the environmental sustainability of a company as a significant motivator. Additional research conducted with UK SMEs revealed that 82 per cent believe ethical and green credentials will become even more important to customers in future.

At Unity, we align our operations and practices to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a global framework to help achieve a more sustainable future. Every lending proposal we receive is aligned to one or more of the SDGs so businesses must be able to demonstrate the positive impact they are making in local communities.

During the pandemic we increased support for frontline organisations such as care homes, pharmacies, early years nurseries and charities as well as Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Responsible Social Lenders (RSLs). Between July 2020 and 2021, we provided financial support worth more than £185m.

It has never been Unity’s policy to lend to organisations that have a detrimental impact on the environment, and we will continue to support those that deliver positive climate outcomes.

Banks have a regulatory obligation to assess the possible impact of climate change on customer loans, for example weather events such as heatwaves, floods and wildfires, plus changes to business models as we move towards a low-carbon economy. We look at the probability of these events occurring in the future and the cost associated to our customers so that we can have more informed conversations.

There are also things Unity chooses to do beyond our regulatory requirements. While our customer lending is underpinned by the value of the societal benefit it delivers, a sizeable chunk of our balance sheet comprises treasury investment. Unity is now using this to invest in both green and social bonds that are aligned to our values, adding to the impact of our overall lending.

Unity’s clear set of values and beliefs are firmly embedded in our culture too, from choosing our suppliers and ensuring their ethical credentials are aligned to ours, to living by our brand values.

We were the first bank to be Living Wage accredited and pay the real Living Wage, the first to achieve the Fair Tax Mark and the first Carbon Literate Bank.

As part of our commitment to help build a sustainable society, employees receive carbon literacy training so they can learn about how their actions affect the planet and use this knowledge to make more informed choices.

This training and our ongoing conversations create a better understanding about how we can reduce our carbon footprint as individuals and as a business.

Unity is also a Women In Finance Charter signatory, a member of the Banking Standards Board and holds the Investors in People Gold standard.

See our latest Impact Report at www.unity.co.uk/impact-report/

 

This article first appeared in Birmingham Business Magazine


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