Private bank Coutts will offer carbon credits and green mortgages to its ultra-wealthy customers after becoming one of the UK’s largest banking brands to obtain B Corp status.
Coutts, known as the Queen’s Bank for serving all members of the royal family since George IV, is trying to bolster its environmental and social reputation after being haunted by a series of scandals in recent years, including allegations of sexual harassment against his former star banker. Harry Keogh, who was fired in 2018. The bank was also fined by Swiss regulators in 2017 for alleged money laundering and for illegally profiting from transactions associated with the 1MDB scandal.
Now, the provider has achieved B Corp certification, which means that a company maintains high standards in its relationships with staff, the community, customers and the environment.
He joins more than 500 other B Corps in the UK, including energy company Bulb, The Body Shop and Jamie Oliver Group, who should value purpose as much as make a profit and commit to improving their performance every year. The Guardian’s publisher, Guardian Media Group, is also B Corp.
Coutts chief executive Peter Flavel said the move was not necessarily about attracting new customers, but about ensuring the 329-year-old bank remained relevant to existing customers and their children, who are increasingly concerned about the impact of his family’s wealth.
“We’ve been trying to bank families for generations,” he said. “I think a newer generation of customers coming in will want to see that we’re dealing with these issues.”
Internally, it means the bank will continue to reduce the carbon footprint of its investment funds and assess the impact of its providers and service providers, including technical support, software, catering and concierge services.
And for customers, this would mean Coutts will help customers assess and understand their own carbon emissions and encourage business customers to subscribe to the Paris climate commitments. Customers will also be offered the opportunity to buy carbon credits to offset their footprint (details of which are still under discussion) and will be encouraged to take out green mortgages by offering lower interest rates.
“Wealthy people continue to live in bigger, older houses, and the carbon footprint … it’s generally not that good,” Flavel said. “So we are working …[how we] can help our customers understand what the footprint of their home is and what they can do to improve the carbon footprint of their way of life. “
Coutts, which offers services ranging from holiday planning to investments and wills, is one of the few financial companies in the UK to get certified alongside asset manager Lombard Odier and digital bank Triodos. Some of Coutss’ own clients also have B Corp status, including the public relations firm Freuds and law firm Bates Wells.
But some existing B Corp companies have had problems. Last month, it appeared that B Lab, the New York-based group overseeing the certification, was reviewing Brewdog’s accreditation following allegations that Scottish brewery bosses had created a toxic work culture. B Lab said it did not comment on the details of the open cases.
Flavel said it took Coutts 18 months to get his certification. “It’s incredibly hard to get there,” he said.
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