Bank of Ireland last week held an information-packed SME Sustainability Briefing in Dublin for business customers.
The event tackled the range of regulations such as CSRD that are coming firms’ way, the various grants and financial supports available to companies and a rich tapestry of case studies and examples of organisations setting an example.
Pat Purcell from Bank of Ireland’s Business Origination team reminded the audience the extent of the climate crisis, pointing out how 2023 was the warmest year on record since records began in 1950.
“CSRD will change the game in ways we cannot comprehend yet”
“The Antartica ice mass is losing 150bn tonnes a year and Greenland is losing 70bn tonnes, contributing to rising sea levels. This will have long term implications, with increasing global temperatures, regular storms, floods and droughts.
“There is increasing regulatory and societal pressure on businesses to take action. For businesses there are opportunities to plan and take action by looking at future strategy and making proactive changes.”
Getting ahead of new regulations like CSRD
The European Union has ruled that all European businesses have a role to play and EU Member States now have 18 months in which to transpose the new Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) into law.
David Connolly from EY outlined the impact of sustainability and climate action on the value chain and the evolution of CSRD in Europe as part of the EU’s Green Deal.
“If you are supplying into a company, you are in their value chain.”
He said that more than 50,000 businesses will fall within the scope of CSRD within the decade and will help cut down on “greenwashing” by businesses by getting them to demonstrate the real changes they are making.
Susie Crawford, sectoral expert on Sustainability at Bank of Ireland said: “CSRD will change the game in ways we cannot comprehend yet. What CEOs and CFOs will focus on and what goes into the annual report are going to be under the microscope. The conversations we will be having in business about sustainability in five years will be completely different.”
What gets measured gets managed
Ali Donnellan from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) described the myriad of grants, audits, training and financial supports available to Irish businesses. To begin the process she said: “A business understanding their energy use is crucial.”
She said that there are €44m worth of grants in place to support 4,000 businesses. To date, some 2,500 firms have enrolled in the SEAI’s Energy Academy.
“Business energy prices have increased. It’s important for SMEs to get on their energy efficiency journey to see their costs go down.”
Proving just how a proactive approach to energy management is key, Chris Furey from the Furey Smyth Group, which operates Eurospar stores at eight locations across Ireland employing 450 people, outlined how the group embarked on a 10-year sustainability strategy that saw new refrigeration, solar panels and retrofitting take place across its stores.
“Convincing everyone it was the right thing to do was the easy part, but getting consensus to go ahead was where work had to be put in. After six months of deliberation we went ahead.”
The results have been impactful with €400,000 savings in energy costs in 2021 alone and energy savings of up to 48% in some stores. “Sustainability makes business sense,” he told the businesses present.
Pat Purcell spoke about how the bank is fully committed to helping Ireland achieve its climate action targets.
“The bank aims to provide €15bn in green finance by 2025 and to double that by 2030.”
As well as supporting everything from the purchase of electric vehicles and investing in renewable energy projects, he outlined various lending products that include the Green Business Loan, the GSLS loan with SBCI and Enviroflex for the agri sector.
In terms of Corporate Banking products, he pointed to the Sustainability Linked Loan, the Green Capex Loan and the Green Bond Framework. He indicated how the green agenda was changing how products will be structured in the future, citing the innovative Enviroflex product.
Bank of Ireland, in partnership with Kerry Dairy Ireland, recently launched Enviroflex sustainability-linked loans to provide an additional funding option for farmers implementing sustainable farming practices.
“Dairy farmers get a reduced rate, Kerry Group gets the benefit of less carbon in the supply chain and the bank benefits because we have a customer more likely to be successful in sustainability into the future,” Purcell said.
Main image at top (from left): Pat Purcell, Bank of Ireland; Susie Crawford, Bank of Ireland; David Connolly, EY; Ali Donnelly, SEAI; and Chris Furey, Furey Smyth Group