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Case Studies Royal Bank of Scotland

Improving Transparency and Rebuilding Trust at RBS

SustainAbility has worked with RBS for over three years, helping to strengthen and streamline the bank’s approach to materiality and sustainability reporting.


Although RBS has used a materiality process to help guide its business for many years, in 2014 the bank asked us to review their existing approach and advise on how best to: gather information and insights on material issues; deliver a robust GRI-G4 compliant approach and provide a platform to engage senior colleagues on sustainability-related business risks and opportunities.

Shaping the narrative

After reviewing the existing approach, we conducted a series of 11 interviews to both augment the materiality assessment and to help shape the narrative of the 2014 sustainability report. We spoke with business heads, functional leads, the chief sustainability officer and the chair of the banks’ Sustainable Banking Committee. Using their insight, we then worked closely with the bank’s sustainability department to help shape the report’s structure and narrative.

Building trust

Following the financial crisis, addressing the trust deficit is a key strategic priority, for RBS and the banking sector as a whole. By focusing on the issues that are most material to stakeholders, RBS has made positive progress towards improving transparency and building trust and in November 2014, the bank was ranked as the top UK-headquartered corporation for transparent reporting by Transparency International.

In redesigning the materiality process, we have also helped RBS to engage on a deeper level with the bank’s most senior leaders and helped integrate sustainability as a key component of its 2020 corporate strategy.




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