What is natural capital?

Natural capital is the practical value we derive from a healthy environment. It can be depleted or topped up, depending on what we do. Natural capital links sustainability and profitability because a healthy business, and a healthy economy, depend on a healthy environment.

The importance of natural capital

When you invest in any business, you need to know that it can make money and be profitable in the long-term. If a business’ profit depends on the quality of the soil, water and air it uses, that natural capital should be recognised in business decisions.

We don’t tell our customers how to run their businesses. But at NAB, we believe customers who are taking care of their natural capital are good for our business. We know that their investment in the quality of their soil, water, and air makes their business more valuable and more productive. And we know it makes our investment in them safer.

That’s not just sustainable business. It’s good business.

Our focus on natural capital

In 2011 we became the first Australian bank to sign the Natural Capital Declaration – a global statement recognising that natural capital poses significant potential risks and opportunities to the finance sector. To date, we’re the only Australian-based bank to sign the declaration.

Since then, we’ve worked on a natural capital strategy, which is built on understanding our impacts and dependencies on natural capital from our operations and in our supply chains, as well as those of our customers.

We’re initially focusing on our agribusiness customers. However, our commitment to natural capital extends across our entire business.
We are a member of the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) Forum.  We have  undertaken a range of activities to further our understanding of TNFD and implications for our business. This includes:

  • Pilot testing of TNFD LEAP process using freshwater as a case study and drawing on the beta version of the TNFD framework. The pilot was managed by UNEP FI, and the full findings are available on the UNEP website, opens in new window.
  • Contributing to the Australian Banking Association’s (ABA) feedback on the TNFD. Feedback drew on implementation challenges identified through the UNEP FI pilot process.
  • Participating in a UNEP FI project designed to support financial institutions in understanding the role of nature scenarios (a similar concept to climate scenarios). Such scenarios can help decision-makers by establishing an agreed definition of the future status of nature e.g. how might soil quality change and what risks and opportunities may arise for the productivity of agribusinesses as a result.
  • Taking part in the Australian Government’s TNFD education and awareness raising program.
  • Undertaking a preliminary assessment of nature-related impacts and dependencies. This assessment will contribute to the TNFD roadmap the Group is developing.

Working with our customers

We’re supporting customers to make investments that improve nature-related outcomes, for example, through our NAB Green Finance for Agribusiness loans and sustainability-linked loans (SLLs). Our NAB Green Finance for Agribusiness loans offer eligible customers  finance for investments that improve nature-related outcomes, including reducing carbon emissions in farming production, building resilience against drought, improving land, biodiversity and water quality, and increasing carbon sequestration on land.

We also provide SLLs which incentivise the achievement of predetermined sustainability performance objectives. For example, our SLLs can incentivise clients to mitigate deforestation, which is a critical component of protecting biodiversity.

Read more about how we’re supporting customers to decarbonise and build climate resilience in our 2023 Climate Report (PDF, 3MB), opens in new window.

Working with our research partners

For more than a decade we’ve supported research to understand the relationship between our business and natural capital.

We’ve commissioned numerous projects with research organisations, such as the CSIRO, universities, Cooperative Research Centres, Trucost, and technology providers, to understand our impacts and dependencies and develop methodologies that allow us to consider natural capital in our business. Some examples include:

Environmental impact

By minimising our waste and reducing consumption, we can reduce our environmental impact.  
Our direct environmental impact is primarily a result of building occupancy, equipment use (particularly in our data centres) and travel. The key environmental impacts of these activities are resource use such as paper, the generation of carbon emissions and waste.  Where we can, we look for opportunities to avoid, reduce, re-use and recycle.

How we’re using less resources

We’re focused on ensuring our buildings are designed, built and operated to best practice standards.

We’re continually making improvements to the way we operate our buildings and the equipment we select to reduce the environmental impact of our business activities. We also work with our suppliers to reduce our environmental footprint further, while encouraging them to do the same.

Read more about our environmental performance.

Reducing our energy use

We’re focused on reducing our energy use and sourcing renewable energy. Our energy use was down 47% in 2023 against a 2019 baseline.

Reducing our waste

Our waste generation (combined waste to landfill and recycled materials) was down 67% (620 tonnes) in 2023 across our global operations against a 2019 baseline. 64% of waste generated was diverted from landfill.

Reducing paper use and printing

Office paper use across our global operations has decreased 63% (188 tonnes) in 2023 against a 2019 baseline.

Read more climate news

Learn how we’re working to be part of the climate solution on NAB News. 

Explore sustainability at NAB

Learn more about how we serve customers well and help our communities prosper.

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