Leading from the front in a new climate for business travel | Tech US News

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The pandemic has revealed how many business trips could be dispensed with. Now Kiwibank wants to turn those lessons into long-term change.

For years, companies have sent their people all over the country, and around the world, for all kinds of events and engagements. But when a return flight between Wellington and Auckland produces approximately 150kg of carbon dioxide, the environmental impact of making that journey for an hour-long face-to-face meeting becomes difficult to justify.

As we all retreat indoors and online during the pandemic lockdown, alternative options have become the norm. Zoom calls have replaced face-to-face kōrero, a shift followed by the rapid realization that many of our pre-pandemic business trips may not have been as crucial as they seemed.

For one B-Corp certified company like Kiwibank, it is vital to ensure that customers can be confident that they are dealing with a responsible financial lender. Tom Williams, the organisation’s head of sustainable finance, says the challenge is multi-faceted.

“We’re trying to get people to understand that where you put your money, who you bank with, really matters. If your bank isn’t clear about its principles and what it will and won’t lend money for, then your money could be used to finance things that you don’t personally support.”

Tom Williams, head of sustainable finance at Kiwibank (Image: supplied)

While the manifestation of these principles is perhaps most visible in investment initiatives (eg divesting from certain investment categories), another step Kiwibank has recently taken is the allocation of a travel carbon budget for all members of the executive team from the bank

“By giving each team member limits on their contributions to our overall travel emissions goals, we’re asking them to be more conscious and deliberate about their decisions about how they allocate their budget. Cost was already a driver, but it’s about adding another lens when considering whether travel is really necessary,” explains Julia Jackson, head of purpose and sustainability at Kiwibank.

“An example of this orientation is flying to a one-hour workshop or a business meeting as usual – that’s going to be a no-no. However, if the travel can be justified because it’s a multi-day strategic workshop and it’s going to deliver the results what we’re looking for, it’s probably a yes”.

Julia has been at the bank for six years, and when she started, her role did not exist. Since then, Kiwibank has made some serious commitments to reduce its climate impact: how to set up a climate action plan that included clear targets and commitments for our own business, and how they want to support customers in the transition to a low-carbon future.

Kiwibank’s Head of Purpose and Sustainability, Julia Jackson (Image: Provided)

In working to build (and justify) its reputation as a responsible company, Kiwibank has also tried to figure out where it fits into the wider climate change discussion.

“While climate change is a complex issue, a priority climate risk we are exploring is the impact coastal flooding will have on our customers’ homes and the impact they have on our credit risk,” says Williams.

The bank recently launched its sustainability reportcelebrating the milestones achieved towards its key goals of improving tamariki, kiwi and Aotearoa since the launch of its sustainability framework in 2019. But while there has been good progress in some areas, Williams admits there is still room for improvement in others. .

“The report card has a bunch of scores, that’s how we’re measuring up to certain goals, and we’re not hitting them all. We’ve still got a lot of work to do, but we’re confident we’re going in the right direction.”

The sentiment is shared by Jackson. “We know that we are not perfect… but every day is just learning for us; find new ways to develop new solutions”.

In New Zealand, aviation accounts for 13% of the country’s total emissions (Image: Tina Tiller)

By 2021, the financial lender had already achieved a 53% reduction in its operational emissions since setting a baseline in 2018. To do even better, it decided to reset its targets to 2025. This will see the organization reduce its emissions to around 70% of 2018 levels, which is online science-based goals. As well as focusing on reducing its emissions by limiting travel, Kiwibank now uses 82% recycled plastic to make its bank cards and has started recycling the majority of its e-waste. However, as the bank is looking at how and who lends as a responsible lender, he says the biggest changes could be yet to come.

“The biggest emissions for corporate businesses aren’t driving or travel, they’re your supply chain emissions. For us, that’s lending. It’s said that for a bank, financed emissions it can be almost 500 times greater than what is involved in the day-to-day business,” says Williams.

The bank has begun researching how it can gather reliable data on the emissions produced by the companies and sectors it lends money to. That data will give Kiwibank a better understanding of how they can ensure they are doing everything they can to reduce their financial lending issues, a goal that will likely be achieved by setting a carbon lending target.

Jackson knows there is work to be done to achieve the goals Kiwibank has set for itself, but they are dedicated to doing it; lead from the front in the urgent battle to tackle climate change.

“We have an incredible opportunity to really challenge some of the ways we run businesses and think about finance and banking. We look at how we can deliver on these promises and do something that can show that we’re operating differently.”


Follow Bernard Hickey’s When the facts change on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcast provider.

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