Westpac Group has launched its new 2017 sustainability strategy, earmarking more than $8 billion to invest in what the Australian banking giant has described as “the most pressing issues in society and the environment today.”
The five-year plan includes the dedication of $6 billion for lending and investment to the clean technology and environmental services lending, while $2 billion will be set aside for social and affordable housing. Westpac also plans to become carbon neutral over the life of the strategy, and to focus on improving its overall environmental footprint.
The move by Westpac will come as a welcome vote of confidence for Australia’s cleantech sector, amid vows by the federal Opposition to junk the government’s $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation if elected. It also puts paid to the Coalition’s oft-repeated assertion that the CEFC aims to fund projects “the private sector won’t touch with a bargepole.”
Westpac Group Executive Christine Parker said the bank wanted to set big targets and “raise awareness of these issues and challenge everybody to do more.” Part of this strategy will be to launch one product or service a year to help its retail banking customers manage their environmental challenges. But the main focus will be on providing innovative solutions to help manage environmental outcome issues, and to support the cleantech and environmental services sector.
“We have been working towards our sustainability goals over the past 15 years and I’m proud of what we’ve achieved,” Parker said. “We want to do more than simply sustain the status quo; we want to create a better future.
“Our new strategic focus is to anticipate and shape the most pressing emerging issues where we have the skills and experience to make a meaningful difference.”
Westpac has some form in walking the walk on sustainability, with two spells in the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations (2006-2008 and then 2010-2013). This year, it has earned the ranking of 10th most sustainable company in the world and was the highest ranked Australian company and highest ranked bank globally.
Sophie is editor of OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au and deputy editor of its sister site, RenewEconomy.com.au. Sophie has been writing about clean energy for more than a decade.