Case study NatWest

NatWest research finds digital bank statements reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Spurring change through evidence-informed decision-making. NatWest Group has an ambition to play a leading role in championing climate solutions by supporting its customers’ transition towards a net-zero carbon, climate-resilient and sustainable economy.

The Challenge

More and more consumers are demanding services that have a positive effect on the environment. They are becoming increasingly aware of the impact their day-to-day activities have on the planet, but when it comes to reducing their carbon footprint, many consumers still aren’t aware of all their options.

Acknowledging the positive impact that changes of personal and consumer habits can have on the environment, NatWest sought independent research from EcoAct to provide customers with a comprehensive understanding of the carbon footprint associated with the issuance of monthly bank statements, both paper and digital, considering also at-home printing.

Customers holding bank accounts with NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland and Ulster Bank (Northern Ireland) have the option to receive their monthly bank statements in paper or digital form, using the NatWest app or online banking. The former consists of an envelope containing on average between three and five pages, whilst the latter is made available on online platforms via email, notifying account holders that the monthly statement is ready to view. These statements can be downloaded in a PDF format.

The Natwest Group is a UK-based multinational banking and financial services company headquartered in Edinburgh with circa 2,776 sites in the UK including retail branches, data centres, processing centres and offices. Natwest Group [formerly Royal Bank of Scotland plc] has made great strides in their goal of being a sustainable bank and been the recipient of numerous awards, such as Sustainability Team of the Year in 2017 and specific recognition for their staff engagement programme.

Circle sky;

Tackling climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our time and for NatWest Group it’s central to our purpose-led strategy. As the leading bank in the UK for business customers, and one of the largest for retail customers, we have a significant responsibility, and the ability, to encourage, enable and lead the way in helping people across the UK to transition to a net zero carbon economy.

While we understand we have to think long term, we also know that we must act now, and NatWest Group is determined to play a leading role in tackling climate change and helping our customers do the same. Which is why we’re providing customers the option of choosing to receive their bank statements digitally to help reduce CO2 emissions. The work that EcoAct, a leading provider of climate solutions, has undertaken, demonstrates how, if we all make small changes, we can work together towards tackling the climate challenges we face. Switching from monthly paper statements to digital statements is a simple, secure and smart way for our customers to access their bank statements while creating a long term sustainable environment that enables customers and communities to thrive.


The Solution

EcoAct adopted a life cycle approach to calculate the comparative carbon footprint of digital bank statements versus paper, with a specific focus on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is an internationally recognised, science-based methodology to assess the environmental impacts of a product or service throughout its life – from raw material extraction, manufacture and use to end-of-life disposal, recycling, or reuse. It includes quantifying the energy and materials that are required across the chain of activities that generate and provide a product or service and calculates the corresponding emissions to the environment. The foundation of a life cycle assessment is set out in the ISO Standards of the ISO 14000 family for environmental management. The study went through a critical review run by the independent sustainability consultancy Fishwick Environmental. Climate change is the greatest threat we face as a society and many of us want to do something about it. The lack of information on how climate-friendly a product or service is, often hinders our will to take action, along with the general belief that we don’t feel our individual actions can make a difference. Businesses more than ever must think through how they respond to customers’ concerns, supporting them in making informed choices by providing them with comprehensive and unbiased information and data. It is crucial for customers to have the ability to critically assess the environmental impacts and benefits of their choices. Considering that behaviour change plays a role in almost two-thirds of emissions reduction, this can open a wide range of opportunities to achieve the behaviour change needed for delivering net-zero.   References
  1. grams of carbon dioxide equivalent
  3. Maritz Survey, 27 July - 4 August 2021

The result

  • The carbon footprint of one paper bank statement delivered home to an account holder is higher than the carbon footprint of one digital bank statement. The difference is equal to 45.5 gCO2e [1].
  • Moving from paper to digital bank statements, every account holder can save monthly the same amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated by charging 5 smartphones [2].
  • For the paper bank statement, the main source of emissions is represented by mail sorting and delivery (41% of total footprint). Paper sheets and envelopes production are responsible for 25% and 17% of total emissions, respectively.
  • The main contributor to the carbon footprint of the digital bank statement is the electricity consumed to read the document (42% of total emissions), followed by at-home printing. Customers spend on average seven minutes reading their digital bank statement and 10% of them usually print the document [3].