Andy Golding, Group CEO
ESG has been a buzzword on the lips of corporate Britain for some years now. But it is not enough for companies simply to pay lip service to their Environmental, Social and Governance responsibilities. In a world where our customers, employees and business partners are prioritizing energy efficiency, personal wellbeing and professional transparency, ESG considerations must form a central pillar of our group strategy.
At OSB Group, we are acutely aware of our ethical obligations, both as a lender to homeowners and landlords, and a provider of options for savers and investors, when it comes to operating in a sustainable manner. For us, ESG is a long-term commitment, but not a far-off aspiration. We are acting right now to help build a greener future for and with our clients, colleagues and associates. That is why we have created an ESG structure and established a dedicated ESG team which works across the business.
Concern for the environment has reached a record high, with a You Gov survey published in November 2022 revealing that 67% of Britons are now worried about climate change and its effects, while the proportion of people willing to invest to make their homes more energy efficient has risen from 41% to 50% between September 2021 and October this year.
As a bank closely involved in the housing market, given that UK homes are responsible for 21% of all emissions, and commercial property a further 18%, we appreciate that OSB Group is in a privileged position. Our actions can have a more direct impact than those in different industries when it comes to influencing the quality of the UK’s housing stock. Targeted mortgage products can encourage landlords to improve the energy-efficiency of their investments, while at the same time adding value to their portfolio. Given the well-established link between quality of housing and physical and mental health, taking such action can also fulfil landlords’ social obligations as it improves their tenants’ quality of life.
Of course, there would be no point us creating such products if there were no demand. So, research will always be key to shaping our ESG strategy. Landlord Leaders, a comprehensive survey of landlords and brokers we carried out earlier in 2022, is a prime example of how valuable customer insight can be.
At OSB Group we are committed to playing a leading role in ESG, not just in developing products but raising awareness of the issues concerned. But of course, we cannot do this alone. An undertaking such as improving the UK’s housing stock is a gargantuan task. We can only make genuine progress in conjunction with our peers in the financial services industry, with the buy-in of our business partners and with the co-operation of our customers. Our Landlord Leaders research suggests many customers are already starting to move towards decarbonization. Now it’s time for the industry to collaborate and help them on that journey.