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RBS: it may take a generation to overhaul existing banking cultures



The banking and finance industry has come under intense pressure since the financial crisis, after scandals and examples of bad practice emerged, but it could take a generation to overhaul the current culture and create a responsible banking system, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has said.

During a Webinar, Andrew Cave, head of sustainability at the bank, commented that the effects of the financial crisis, such as public distrust, are still rife in the industry in general and is something that could take many years to address.

The Global Consumer Banking Survey, published in March by accountancy firm EY, revealed that whilst consumer trust in the UK banking sector had stabilised, it still lags behind the rest of the world. In the UK, 37% of respondents said their trust in banks had declined in the last year, compared to 11% that said it had increased. Additionally, 15% said they had minimal or no trust in their main financial provider, double the levels seen in Germany, France and the US.

One of the main drivers behind the lack of trust were recent news articles, with banks hitting the headlines over benchmark manipulation, mis-selling and sales-driven cultures.

Embracing ethics and sustainability is key to changing perceptions, although Cave acknowledges that the definition of sustainability is broad and banks, including RBS, have a long way to go.

According to Edie, Cave said, “On a narrow measure of more traditional sustainability issues around environmental performance, we’ve made good progress […] but we are under no illusions, we’ve got a long road ahead of us.

“It may take a generation in banking to overhaul the existing cultures and to make sure we get the culture doing the right things everyday.”

However, he added that creating a more sustainable banking sector in the UK was difficult because the business model, which is based on offering free services in the form of current accounts, presents challenges.

Cave reportedly added, “Of course it can’t be free, there is always cost in the system and a model like that creates a range of challenges. When you have a whole sector where you have a difficult business model it drives a whole raft of sustainability challenges.”

Following the release of its Sustainability Review in April, RBS said it aims to lead ethical banking from the front but admitted that this could take up to five years

In an article for Blue & Green Tomorrow, Ryan Brightwell, researcher with BankTrack and founder of research consultancy Bright Analysis, looks at RBS’s ethical credentials and argues there is a “wide open space for a large commercial bank to become a leader on ethics.

During a debate at this year’s Ecology Building Society annual general meeting, Anna Dart, a PhD researcher at Roehampton University, commented, that as a taxpayer owned bank, RBS was in an ideal position to set a better example in the financial industry.

Photo: Royal Bank of Scotland  

Further reading:

Myth of sustainable investment performance sacrifice ’finally withering away’

Four banks accused of underpaying PPI compensation

Co-operative Bank customers to have their say on ethical banking policy

We need to questions what bankers are being rewarded for

The Guide to Sustainable Banking 2013


Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?



sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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New Climate Change Report Emphasizes Urgent Need for Airline Emission Regulations




In less than two months, the United States has grappled with some of the worst natural disasters in its history. Hurricanes battered the south central United States. Fires destroyed homes throughout Northern California. Puerto Rico experienced some of the worst storms ever. A massive windstorm caused more damage to the northeastern United States then any other storm on record before winter even struck.

These recent incidents have spurred discussion on the dangers of climate change. A recent report from the University of London has shed some light on the discussion. The new report suggests that new regulations are needed, including stricter EPA regulations on Airlines.

Review of the new report

The new report was published in the British medical Journal, Lancet. The report concluded that climate change is a “threat multiplier” for a variety of social problems, including diseases and natural disasters. While numerous studies have processed the risk that climate change plays with creating natural disasters, University of London report is among the first to explore the relationship between climate change and disease.

The authors warned that the problems are becoming irreversible. They will continue to get worse if risk factors are not adequately addressed.

The most concerning part of the report is that these problems are having the most serious impact on the most vulnerable communities in the world. Countries that depend on agriculture and other issues will suffer the most if climate change escalates.

“The answer is, most of our indicators are headed in the wrong direction,”said Nick Watts, a fellow at University College London’s Institute for Global Health and executive director of the Lancet Countdown, one of the lead researchers of the paper. “Broadly, the world has not responded to climate change, and that lack of response has put lives at risk. … The impacts we’re experiencing today are already pretty bad. The things we’re talking about in the future are potentially catastrophic.”

Airline industry discovers climate change is a two-way Street

The airline industry is coping with the problems of climate change, while also coming to terms with the fact that it has helped accelerate the problem. Earlier this year, American Airlines was forced to cancel four dozen flights near Phoenix. Cancellations were called due to excessive temperatures. The air was over 120 degrees, which is too hot for some smaller jet planes to get off the ground.

One anonymous airline executive privately admitted that their business model has facilitated climate change. They warned that the problem may become twice as bad in the next few years if proper safeguards aren’t implemented. Representatives from Goindigo have echoed these concerns.

The EPA has stated that airplanes account for 11% of all emissions. They are expected to increase over 50% within the next 30 years. This could have serious repurcussions if newer, greener airplane models don’t become the new standard in the very near future.

This is driving discussion about the need for new policies.The EPA has been discussing the need for new airline regulations for nearly two years. An EPA ruling made in July 2016 set the tone for new regulations, which could be introduced in the next year.

The new policies may be delayed, due to the new president’s position on climate change. He hired an EPA chief that has sued the organization about a dozen times. However, the Trump Administration may not be able to oppose climate change indefinitely, because a growing number of people are pressing for reforms. Even younger conservatives primarily believe climate change is a threat and are demanding answers. This may force the EPA to follow through on its plans to introduce new solutions.

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