Banks must push through their green transition plans to build a more responsible finance industry. The carbon footprint is one metric that can help them gauge their impact on the environment and transform their business with sustainability-based decision-making. 

Recycling waste, using renewable energy, taking public transport and using less plastic are some actions that reduce our carbon footprint, help protect the environment and guarantee the resources people and other living things will need to survive in the future. 

We must take responsibility for halting the devastation of man-made climate change and global warming, caused mainly by greenhouse gases (GHG).

Several climate change initiatives have emerged in recent years. Regional governments, companies, banks (Santander included) and 196 countries adhered to the 2015 Paris Agreement in a pledge to reduce emissions, become carbon neutral by 2025 and prevent an average global temperature rise of 2°C above the pre-industrial era. 

On top of reducing their own emissions, banks are looking to create a more responsible finance industry by promoting such things as green finance and sustainable investment. That’s where the carbon footprint (a key indicator in the fight against climate change) comes in. 

What is a carbon footprint?

Turning on a computer, driving a car, charging a mobile phone and other things we do at home and at work release methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) and other gases into the atmosphere. The most common gas is carbon dioxide (CO2), which contributes to global warming more than any other.

A calculation of the CO2 emissions we cause, our carbon footprint gives us an idea of our direct and indirect role in global warming so we can take action. It forms part of the ecological footprint, an environmental indicator that also includes the water footprint, the land footprint and the material footprint to measure how much of the Earth's surface we need to do something, the planet's biocapacity to absorb the waste and pollution we generate, and other things.  

How do banks measure their carbon footprint?

Knowing your carbon footprint is the first step to reduce it. Banks and other companies measure their footprint with these three parameters:

  • Direct emissions (Scope 1): Gases released from fuel combustion in machines, furnaces, vehicles and boilers that the business controls or owns. It also includes “fugitive emissions” from heating and cooling system leaks and machine breakdown.

  • Indirect emissions (Scope 2): Gases released mainly when a business consumes energy bought from a third party.

  • Other indirect emissions (Scope 3): Gases released from employee transport, supply chain activities and other outsourced services with assets that the business does not own or control.

How can banks reduce their carbon footprint?

Banks can take action to reduce or offset their footprint and, with it, the damage caused by climate change. Santander is offsetting its own emissions by helping its customers in the transition to a green economy. We're also:

  • Reducing our emissions. Santander's operations became carbon neutral in 2020 by sourcing renewable energy for buildings and offsetting emissions through initiatives on reforestation, wind energy and others. In 2021, we also stopped using single-use plastics and installed LED lighting at our branches and offices. 

  • Decarbonizing our portfolio. Santander pledges to eliminate its exposure to carbon mining worldwide and to stop lending to energy producers if 10% of their revenues rely on thermal carbon, all by 2030.

  • Supporting the green transition. Santander finances renewable energy initiatives and advises new ones that have a positive impact on the environment. Its subsidiaries offer green mortgages, energy efficiency loans for heating and cooling systems and financing for buying or leasing electric and hybrid cars, low-carbon farming, installing or renting solar panels and for other green products that follow environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards. What’s more, our Sustainable finance classification system (SFCS) is an internal guide to categorizing activities as green, social and sustainable. To find out how your savings can help finance the energy transition, check out this article (in Spanish) by Openbank

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