HOT TOPIC: How banking can save the planet

By Chris Cummings, Technical Director at chapmanbdsp.

If money does make the world go around; might it be the banks that end up saving it?

We are in the grip of a Climate Emergency, amidst the sixth mass extinction event, and know full well that we must reduce our emissions to zero to avoid tipping into full-blown environmental disaster.

There is an enormous groundswell of climate awareness and calls for action from across the globe, the societal pressure to do your utmost in the pursuit of sustainability has never been greater.

Governments are legislating that zero emissions must be met, admittedly through a body of regulations that have a lot of ground to make up, but which ultimately will drive all future development towards zero carbon in construction and operation.

However, the desire to “do the right thing” can only ever be fulfilled if the finances stack up.

The public clamour for environmental responsibility and proposed legislation such as the uplift in Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) are having an impact on the ultimate motivators, the banks.

The recent news articles around BlackRock and Credit Suisse’s respective associations with the fossil fuel industry are signs of a shift in the financial markets, with organisations “cleaning up” their portfolios. The European Investment Bank has ended all lending for fossil fuel projects and the World Economic Forum published their list of the top global risks, with the top five being directly associated with climate change.


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The built environment has historically provided the assets for many an investment portfolio. The sustainability, or otherwise, of a building will have an impact on its value as an asset and therefore its viability as security.

The drive towards a circular economy could see buildings themselves considered as banks of materials – non-circular development will be considered to have no long-term value or potential for repurpose. Buildings which fall foul of more stringent MEES requirements or which cannot be considered “Paris Proof” are at risk of becoming stranded assets, or toxic investments.

We have the technological expertise and collective will to deliver on the UK zero emissions commitments, if money were no object.

Hopefully we are seeing a sea-change in funding and investment models that will help to break down the current barriers between capex and opex, so that “doing the right thing” is not in conflict with viability or profitability.

As environmental consultants our common riposte to questions of affordability around sustainable design is “can you afford not to?”. That answer would carry a lot more weight when it tugs at purse-strings instead of heartstrings.

Christopher Cummings is Technical Director responsible for all aspects of Environmental and Sustainable design at chapmanbdsp.

HOT TOPIC: How banking can save the planet