NatWest won't invest in companies that make landmines or cluster munitions, but still allows investments in some of the companies that build nuclear weapons. NatWest is reviewing its policy this year, and there is an opportunity to update the policy to exclude all companies involved in weapons that "cause mass, indiscriminate and longlasting damage.”
There has been an ongoing dialogue with NatWest’s sustainability officers for more than a year. A policy change went into effect in September 2021. The policy prevents any types of investment in any companies connected to landmines and cluster bombs because they "cause mass, indiscriminate and longlasting damage.” We continue to urge NatWest to put nuclear weapons into this same banned weapons category.
Last year, the Church of Scotland, Unison Scotland, ICAN and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament were among the 40+ organisations that signed a letter to NatWest Group CEO Alison Rose to update the group’s defence sector policy to reflect that nuclear weapons are now prohibited under international law. The call comes following widespread condemnation of the UK government’s decision to increase the cap on the nuclear weapons in its stockpile by up to 40%.
As of January 2021, Natwest Group had over £2.3 billion in outstanding loans or underwriting activities to 7 companies heavily involved in the nuclear weapons industry. This however, is just a tiny fraction of NatWest's overall lending. (To put in into context, NatWest Group lent £31.5 billion for mortgages in 2020). NatWest Group has a broad enough portfolio it doesn’t need to invest in companies connected to weapons of mass destruction.
Linda Pearson of Don’t Bank on the Bomb Scotland said “Recent polling shows that nearly two thirds of people in the UK want the government to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, while 77% support a total ban on nuclear weapons globally. NatWest Group should better reflect the values of its customers, and that means ending its support for the nuclear weapon industry”.
NatWest Group has a roadmap to increasing its sustainable banking practices, and that includes an update to the defence sector policies. One of the Group’s goals committed to “work responsibly” with clients and customers “to encourage sustainable practices and enable economic activities that create shared prosperity for current and future generations”.
ICAN welcomes the chance to encourage NatWest Group to divest from nuclear weapon producers and revise its policy to reflect the illegitimacy of nuclear weapons. Now the Treaty on the Prohibition is in force, banks too must cut ties to these immoral, inhumane and illegal weapons. Now it’s NatWest Group’s chance for change.
Join the Call
Clients of RBS, and NatWest now have a unique opportunity to call on NatWest Group to change its defence policy to comprehensively exclude nuclear weapons. The Nuclear Weapons Finance Research Group has put together resources, including a draft letter, for clients to reach out to their bank about this issue.
Alternatively, you can sign up for the 8 April action and encourage your friends and followers to do the same on twitter, Facebook and instagram, below.
Already signed up? Here's a flyer to print and distribute on the day of action.