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Report: Bankers for Net Zero


UK Government and UN backed 'Bankers for Net Zero' deliver first of its kind framework to support SME's in the transition to a zero carbon economy


  • New report details workplan to model a first-of-its kind pilot programme to engage UK banks in measuring SME GHG emissions
  • With SMEs collectively responsible for 52% of UK private sector turnover, we cannot leave such a critical part of the UK economy behind in the journey to decarbonise Britain
  • UK banks can act as catalysts for place-based initiatives to reduce SME GHG emissions and signposting to net zero government programmes

A new report from Bankers for Net Zero has revealed the crucial role banks can play in measuring and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions from their small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) clients.

Published in September, The role of banks in reducing GHG emissions of UK SMEs, highlights the results of an 8-week scoping exercise led by Bankers for Net Zero and Smart Data Foundry at the University of Edinburgh. The scoping work was organised around a number of thematic workstreams, focusing on the role banks can play in measuring SME GHG emissions and how they can encourage SMEs to change behaviours and reduce GHG emissions.

The work programme comprised of desk research, and interviews with experienced academics as well as Bankers for Net Zero member banks, including HSBC UK, the British Business Bank and Santander. The results and recommendations were developed through a series of workshops, with representatives from across Government, financial services, regulation, academia, civil society and businesses participating.


With 5.9 million SMEs in the UK, collectively employing some 16.8 million people and accounting for an estimated 52% of the UK Private sector turnover (BEIS, 2021) the report emphasises the critical part SMEs can play to decarbonise the UK. The scoping programme delivers a long-term work plan to define the role banks can play in creating awareness of GHG emissions and incentivizing SMEs to reduce their emissions. This would allow banks to act as catalysts for place-based initiatives and signposting to net zero government programs.

Encouraging SMEs to start reducing their emissions now is critical to the goal of ensuring a ‘just transition’. The report urges both banks and policymakers to play a role in helping SMEs seize the opportunity of taking early action in the transition. Recent research by HSBC UK, found that 51% of UK businesses say environmental sustainability is an important area for growth, up by 19% since 2021.

The report details Bankers for Net Zero’s plans to test the effectiveness of different mechanisms to engage SMEs in reducing their carbon footprint. The ambition is to roll out an inaugural pilot model over the next 12 months which could then be scaled up to SMEs across the UK. This working pilot will then serve as part of a recommendation to Government and regulators to ensure a level playing field in the transition to low carbon economy. This scoping exercise has been funded by HSBC UK.

Heather Buchanan, Director and Co-founder of B4NZ  said:

“As the lifeblood of the UK economy, it is vital that SMEs are supported in the transition to net zero. The results of this scoping exercise call for a standardised, scalable and transferable approach to measuring and reporting carbon emissions, which will be critical as more and more SMEs take up measures to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and effectively transition to a zero-carbon economy”.

“The banking sector now has the unique opportunity to leverage existing customer relationships with SMEs to incentivise climate action and act as catalysts for community initiatives. Through enhanced positive collaboration between the finance sector and SMEs, we can deliver a strategic framework to reach out to SMEs across the UK to engage them with reducing their carbon emissions”.

Michaela Wright, Head of Sustainability for HSBC UK said:
“SMEs are vital to the UK economy, and our customers have told us they are ready to invest for growth. Companies of all sizes and sectors have a role to play in the transition, with a standardised reporting framework being a crucial enabler of this. We understand the important role we play in helping our customers to successfully navigate a transition to a low carbon economy, and have pledged to aligning the financed emissions of our customers to net zero by 2050 or sooner.”

Martin Nel from Smart Data Foundry commented
“Countering climate change is the greatest challenge we face as a society and banks can play a crucial role in creating awareness of the issue through effective measurement of carbon emissions from their SME clients.”
“Measurement of SME emissions alone will not counter climate change, and banks have an important role to play by financing green investment, acting as catalysts for community efforts to reduce GHG, and playing a role in implementing government programs.”


For more information:

Heather Buchanan, Bankers for Net Zero /

Mina Sharma, HSBC UK – 07387 244371 /