SFE Climate Series leading up to COP26

Sandy Begbie CBE is Chief Executive of Scottish Financial Enterprise

Financial services will play a vital role in the race against climate change and the actions we take now will shape our planet’s future.

I believe a new level of collaboration will be required across financial services, with other industries and with government to help us meet our target of transitioning into a net-zero carbon economy.

We know from a recent survey of members as part of our strategy refresh that climate change is the second highest priority for 2021, after digital transformation. We also know two thirds of members thought sustainability provided the biggest opportunity for financial services. But where do we begin?

The good news is we have started. Scotland is responsible for 11% of the UK's responsible investing market, outpacing its 7% share of the conventional market. Individual firms are also taking action to transition to a low carbon future, but we can and should do more as a collective force for good. This is where COP26 comes in as well as our refreshed Financial Services Strategy.

Held over two weeks, COP26 will be the most important United Nations Climate Change Conference since Paris 2015 when nearly 200 countries agreed to combat climate change by accelerating and intensifying the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future.

While the world will be watching Glasgow in November, the months leading up to COP26 provide a unique chance for our industry to highlight the challenges and opportunities in addressing the climate emergency.

SFE Climate Series

The SFE Climate Series, starting next week, will look at climate from several lenses, such as responsible investment, corporate governance and consumer behaviour. High-calibre guest speakers will feature among experts in their field to discuss topics pertinent to our members.

The first event, hosted by Burges Salmon, will look at Achieving a Net Zero Economy next Thursday 25 March (register here). This will be followed by an Introduction to COP26 and its importance to financial services in Scotland with EY on Wednesday 31 March (register here).

PA Consulting will host an event on removing barriers for home-owners to make more sustainable choices and Phoenix Group is set to present at a panel event on responsible investing. We will also be looking at how banks are helping shape a sustainable world as part of a four-part series with Accenture on the impact of Covid-19. (further details here). 

We’re delighted that Sarah Breedon, the Bank of England’s executive sponsor for work on climate change, and Alison Rose, NatWest Group Chief Executive, will be available at some point during the series and we’re working on securing more high-profile speakers.  

If you’re interested in hosting a climate-themed event with us, would like us to cover a specific topic or put forward guest speakers please do get in touch.

Financial Services Strategy for Scotland

As well as knowledge sharing, I hope the series will create new connections and be a catalyst for collaboration as we embark on implementing our refreshed Financial Services Strategy.

Climate will be one of four key areas of focus alongside supporting the economic recovery, changing customer needs, and skills and inclusion. Having a positive impact on society will be at the heart of our strategy which will require innovation, collaboration and a clear narrative to build upon our industry’s strong foundations.

Climate change came through as a high priority for members in all three phases of the strategy refresh process – the survey, workshops and 1:1 interviews, and the gallery walkthroughs, the last of which was held this morning.

I’m delighted with the high level of engagement across the membership and I’m grateful to everyone who has given their time and energy. This really will be a strategy by the industry, for the industry.

The SFE Board will meet next week to endorse the strategy. We will then be in touch with plans to launch and activate the strategy.

From the support we’ve received from members so far, I am confident this strategy will create a stronger financial services industry for Scotland that makes a positive impact on society.

Published 16 March 2021