This case study shows how NAB:
designed and implemented a carbon neutral program
implemented change across a variety of business units
built internal and external partnerships and networks to support change.
This case study demonstrates the following components of education for sustainability:
critical thinking and reflection
NAB achieved these business outcomes:
cost reduction through energy efficiency
improved culture for climate change and sustainability
strong working groups for sustainability across the organisation
now seen as an industry leader on climate change.
In 2003, NAB developed a corporate responsibility strategy and reported on progress via a stakeholder scorecard as part of its 2003 Concise Annual Report. Since 2004 NAB has produced an annual, stand-alone Corporate Responsibility Report.
NAB has also:
been an active member of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Finance Initiative, a global partnership between UNEP and the financial sector
adopted the Equator Principles for project finance - these principles are a set of globally recognised voluntary guidelines to assess and manage social and environmental project financing risk, especially in emerging markets
won awards for its environment and community programs in Australia and overseas.
The challenge, as with any global business or company operating in multiple locations, is how to make corporate responsibility relevant and to create a clear link between employees’ daily lives (at home and work) and the future. One of the ways in which NAB has done this is by acting to address climate change through a dedicated strategy; its commitment to becoming carbon neutral is one step in this strategy.
NAB’s approach to corporate responsibility is driven at the highest level by its statement of beliefs and behaviours. NAB believes that a company implementing corporate responsibility is most likely to deliver sustainability as an outcome of this behaviour.
NAB’s beliefs and behaviours
At the heart of our Group is a belief in the potential of our customers and communities, as well as each other. This shared belief unites us, and motivates us:
to do the right thing
to help our customers and communities
to realise potential.
Supporting our beliefs is a common set of enterprise behaviours that ask us to always:
be authentic and respectful
create value through excellence.
Our beliefs and behaviours are the foundation of our culture and our brands, and guide our strategy.
Practically, this approach is centred around three core commitments:
getting the fundamentals right with its customers by delivering fair value and quality advice
being a good employer through investing in the skills and capabilities of its employees
addressing its broader responsibility to society by supporting communities, managing its environmental impact and having a positive impact through its supply chain.
These commitments form the basis of NAB’s Corporate Responsibility Framework:
The framework is underpinned by:
objectives, actions and measurements for each commitment area
stakeholder engagement to understand the issues important to each stakeholder group and to help NAB define its corporate responsibility agenda and related strategic direction
governance and leadership from executive and senior management.
From 2006 onwards it became clear that NAB’s employees and other stakeholders were increasingly concerned about climate change, based on experiences in Australia and overseas. This occurred in the context of the release of the Stern Review,2 which brought climate change to the attention of the business community, and Al Gore’s film An inconvenient truth,3 which attempted to explain the issue of climate change to the general public and provide a sense of the need for urgent action.
Externally, the community and environmental stakeholders reflected a growing desire for companies to respond to climate change. Internally, there was strong global support for action from employees. In particular, employees in Australia wanted NAB to take action to reduce its greenhouse emissions and broader environmental impact (in 2006, 90 per cent of the Group’s greenhouse emissions came from its Australian operations).
NAB strongly advocates a leadership by example approach to change. In March 2007 the incumbent Group and Australian CEOs, John Stewart and Ahmed Fahour respectively, announced that NAB intended to be carbon neutral globally by the end of September 2010.
Defining ‘carbon neutral’
An increasing number of organisations and individuals around the world have set out to make their operations carbon neutral. This means they cancel out the direct, and sometimes indirect, greenhouse impact of a defined set of emissions from their operations. There are different approaches to becoming carbon neutral, but the steps usually include:
measuring and monitoring your carbon footprint
reducing energy consumption as much as possible
purchasing green power or using alternative, cleaner sources of energy
purchasing carbon offsets for the remaining greenhouse gas emissions
verifying that the emissions have been offset.
How NAB developed its carbon neutral plan
First of all, NAB developed a climate change strategy with the following five elements:
Leading by example: ‘establishing and minimising our carbon inventory, making our operations carbon neutral, publicly reporting on our progress and being involved in the debate and development of solutions to climate change’.
Engaging and helping NAB staff: ‘supporting our people who wish to personally take action on climate change’.
Understanding and supporting NAB customers: ‘through advice, as well as developing product and service offerings to appropriately support local markets’.
Building partnerships: ‘with a range of stakeholders, including suppliers, to help identify and implement solutions that assist our people, customers and communities to take action’.
Continuing to grow NAB’s understanding of climate risks and opportunities: ‘to consider the impact of climate change on our lending decisions, as well as other areas of relevant operational policy’.
NAB took steps to involve all staff and also established a high-level Group Climate Change and Environment Committee as a forum for group-wide governance and oversight, strategy development, advocacy, shared learning and critical thinking. The committee monitors implementation of the climate change strategy according to milestones and targets and reports to the Group Risk Management Committee and the NAB Group Board.
At a regional level, local management committees provide governance and oversight. In Australia, this committee is the Australian Environmental Leadership Committee. It has representatives from operational areas such as property and procurement, product lines, corporate functions, sustainability related functions and risk. This committee oversees development of local strategy and implementation plans and contributes to global strategy on environment and climate change.
A flagship program of NAB’s climate change strategy is the Carbon Neutral 2010 program which aims to:
reduce greenhouse gas emissions by being as energy efficient as possible
switch to alternative energy sources
offset any remaining emissions.
How NAB defined, measured and verified its greenhouse gas emissions
This task was huge and included first establishing what emissions NAB should include in its carbon inventory. To do this NAB developed carbon inventory guidelines in consultation with external stakeholders in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, including local government, regulators, non-government organisations and experts in carbon markets and management. The guidelines set out the boundaries for NAB’s carbon footprint and the principles used to select emissions sources included in the footprint. Additional internal reporting guidelines cover how greenhouse gases should be measured and converted to a standard unit.
After the guidelines were established, NAB started to measure a broader set of greenhouse emissions from across its global operations. The previously reported sources of emissions were expanded to include:
business travel, including emissions from car fleets, taxis, use of personal cars for work, air travel, hotel stays, train travel in the UK and rental cars (but not employee commutes)
building-related energy, including electricity, gas, diesel and refrigeration
waste to landfill and paper usage
water in the UK (guidelines for water emissions factors are produced by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. No such guidelines are available in any other country in which NAB operates).
NAB also put in place action plans and targets by country for key emissions sources. In Australia, that included establishing a ‘pipeline’ of emissions reduction projects to track the identification, prioritisation and implementation of measures to reduce emissions in NAB’s building portfolio.
Environmental Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility teams worked together to ensure that the action plans were realistic and achievable within timeframes. The plans were reviewed to check they would result in emissions reductions and increase employee understanding and engagement.
In Australia, employees have voluntarily driven the push for change. For example, a volunteer Green Team community of more than 640 employees champions certain green initiatives and encourages employees to reduce their environmental impact in the buildings where they work.
NAB has engaged an independent external auditor to help ensure that emissions are correctly defined, measured and offset. Currently, NAB is undertaking pre-assurance activities in advance of an assurance audit to verify it will become carbon neutral by the end of September 2010.
How NAB built support for its climate change strategy
Building a strong support base for acting on climate change in a large organisation requires creating partnerships at all levels and areas within the organisation. In order to do this the Environmental Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility teams identified key people at NAB in positions of influence (positional power, technical knowledge and gatekeepers) and created links with and between these people over the course of the three-year strategy.
In Australia, NAB conducts an annual employee environmental survey. For the past three years the survey has shown an increasing shift in awareness about what NAB is doing to respond to climate change and other environmental issues. The survey has shown a strong growth in employee support for NAB’s carbon neutral program. Similar surveys are now being conducted in other regions. There is also a general recognition within the company that NAB’s response to climate change needs to be a core part of its business.
NAB also uses external benchmarks to see how it is performing relative to other financial organisations and other companies generally. For example, NAB uses the Business in the Community survey in the UK and the Carbon Disclosure Project and the Dow Jones Sustainability Index globally.
Liz Minchin, The Age’s multi-award-winning environment reporter, followed NAB’s journey to see what drove support for the Carbon Neutral 2010 program. Ms Minchin concluded that after NAB had built momentum and internal support for its strategy, NAB’s employees became more empowered to make change themselves.4 Employees felt they had the right level of understanding about what NAB was trying to do and had increased their skills and knowledge to get involved in the action plan. This strong grass roots push from employees was built on the goodwill created by NAB’s positive stance on climate change, and more broadly on corporate responsibility, since 2003.
NAB has worked to support and engage employees, recognising the advocacy role they play amongst their peers and their communities outside work. Examples of initiatives to engage employees include:
green teams set up by employees, now operating in most of NAB’s commercial offices. The teams work to minimise use of resources such as paper, energy and water and are now supported by a full time coordinator
environmental awareness advertisements on nabTV, an in-house television station also available on the company’s intranet. The Environmental Sustainability team produced the advertisements which involved every member of the Group Executive team displaying positive environmental behaviours to showcase what leaders thought about the environment
using the walls in the lifts at NAB’s Melbourne headquarters for environmental messages which people can read when travelling between floors.
How NAB has reduced its emissions
Buildings: NAB now has a policy that the design of its commercial buildings should attain a minimum 4 Star Green Star rating, aspiring to a 5 Star Green Star rating. For example, NAB’s new headquarters in Melbourne achieved a 5 Star Green Star rating by working with the architects, the building project manager and the Melbourne City Council. Having sustainable buildings is another way NAB hopes to lead by example.
Air travel: NAB aims to reduce air travel related emissions which account for a substantial proportion of its carbon emissions. In Australia the target is a 20 per cent reduction by September 2010. To reduce its global air travel emissions NAB has:
implemented an employee-driven Target Your Travel program to encourage Australian employees to reduce their air travel
improved and increased video conference facilities globally
instigated two travel-free months each year in the UK
implemented a taxi-share program in New Zealand and Australia
piloted the offset of air travel emissions in Australia and the UK since 2008.
Cars: In Australia, NAB reviewed its car fleet policy with its main supplier, Toyota. Most of the fleet was reduced from six cylinder to four cylinder vehicles and gradually NAB is switching to Toyota hybrid cars, the Prius and Camry. Some employees with company cars have undertaken driver education to increase awareness about how their driving habits influence car emissions. Similar, but locally specific, initiatives were implemented in the UK and New Zealand.
Efficient technology: Data centres are very energy intensive and NAB’s two data centres in Australia account for about 30 per cent of its Australian greenhouse gas emissions. In 2009 NAB commenced a ‘tri-generation’ project using a gas fired generator at one of these data centres. This project will allow NAB to generate 80 per cent of its energy requirements for this data centre and reduce emissions by
20 000 tonnes CO2-equivalent each year.