NatWest Sustainability PMI: Low carbon energy is top priority for large UK businesses in 2023


  • NatWest Sustainability PMI* shows UK businesses prioritising searching for low carbon energy solutions in response to rising fuel bills
  • In response to the cost-of-trading crisis, NatWest has created a free to use digital Carbon Planner tool designed to help UK businesses lower energy bills as they cut their carbon footprint. The tool has been made available to both customers and non-customers of the bank
  • Emissions calculations validated by EcoAct climate consultancy
  • Launch forms part of bank’s £100bn Climate and Sustainable Funding and Finance lending commitment

Three-quarters (76%) of large UK businesses are urgently searching for more efficient, low carbon energy sources in 2023, according to the latest data from the NatWest Sustainability PMI. The national survey measures attitudes and actions amongst Purchasing Managers across the UK and highlights just how concerned UK businesses are about the rising cost of energy.  Of the five key sustainability priorities measured, switching to low carbon energy sources ranked as the highest priority for large UK businesses. Conversely, this priority is lower and has fallen since the last quarter amongst SMEs who are instead prioritising sustainability measures they feel are more achievable in the wake of rising costs, such as recycling (51%) vs low carbon energy consumption (44%). To support all businesses, not only NatWest customers, through the current cost-of-trading crisis, NatWest has created a new Carbon Planner tool, a free to use digital platform designed to help cut businesses energy costs, whilst reducing their carbon footprint.

The NatWest Carbon Planner provides personalised actions based on user-data, enabling users to make better informed decisions when looking to reduce their carbon emissions. Businesses can benefit from vital information such as the potential savings of adopting sustainability measures and the time it will take to earn a return on investment. Around two thirds of businesses that sign up to the NatWest Carbon Planner are already making use of the tool to create a transition action plan. The launch follows the bank’s broader commitment to lend £100bn to businesses in Climate and Sustainable Funding and Financing by 2025. The latest financial results published by NatWest shows that the cumulative contribution made to date now stands at £26.2 billion.

Making a business case for investment in sustainability is seen as a key barrier to progress, however, NatWest’s A Springboard to Sustainability report, published November 2022, estimated that there is a potential £175bn revenue opportunity available for the UK economy through the decarbonisation and the drive to Net Zero. In order to secure this, 40,000 new SMEs are needed by 2030 – creating a potential 260,000 extra jobs.

Solange Chamberlain, Chief Operating Officer, Commercial & Institutional, NatWest Group said: “Businesses of all sizes are coming under increasing pressure due to rising energy costs. Our new Carbon Planner tool is designed to help navigate these challenging conditions by providing a clear case for investment in sustainability through equipping businesses with greater insight into areas of high-energy and high-carbon consumption. Looking at this latest data, it’s clear that while large businesses are perhaps more able to switch to low carbon energy sources, SMEs continue to need our support. Our Carbon Planner is designed to be easy to use and applicable regardless of the size of the organisation. We must help UK businesses through the current challenges without falling behind on taking the sustainability measures that will ultimately lead us towards a cleaner, greener future.” 

How does it help businesses on their journey to net zero?

The Carbon Planner takes a business through four practical steps to help them take action:

  • Inform – lets businesses know their current emission hotspots and suggests alternatives
  • Diagnose – helps businesses understand what is best for their business
  • Plan – supports businesses in developing a plan of actions
  • Deliver – signposting potential options available to help them to take actions that can help their business and have the potential to reduce impact on the environment

The platform was customer-led in design and developed with the insight of more than 2,000 businesses. With feedback from testing among both NatWest and non-NatWest business customers** revealing that more than 72% of businesses expect their business will face increased difficulty in light of inflationary challenges citing increased costs of energy (56%), increased costs of materials (56%), and increased interest rates (37%) as the most challenging effects of inflation. More than half (58%) of businesses surveyed think they will need financial help in order to reduce their carbon footprint. 77% believed the Carbon Planner will be ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ valuable to their organisation. 

NatWest engaged with environmental management consultancy, Green Element to develop the questions, actions and model. The bank also worked with other 3rd parties to develop the tool, including consultancies and academic experts.