6.1.1 RBS Group’s policy

RBS Group’s defence sector Environmental, Social and Ethical Risk (ESE) Policy treats companies differently according to where they are based and which nuclear weapons programmes they are involved in. The policy states:

  • The bank does “not support customers and/or transactions involved in prohibited activities”. Prohibited activities include the “financing of companies involved in the manufacture, sale, trade, broking, servicing or stockpiling of Nuclear Weapons in jurisdictions outside NATO countries and that are not officially involved in and accredited to the national nuclear weapons programmes of UK, US or France”.
  • Companies involved in restricted activities “undergo enhanced due diligence including review by a reputational risk forum or approver and evaluation every one or two years”. Restricted activities include the “financing of companies involved in the manufacture, sale, trade, broking, servicing or stockpiling of Nuclear Weapons and the manufacture or sale of Bespoke Components in NATO countries and are officially involved in and accredited to the national nuclear weapons programmes of only UK, US or France”.

This policy is not comprehensive (see section 8.1) as companies that are involved in “restricted” nuclear weapons activities, such as BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin, are not automatically excluded from RBS Group investment. Moreover, the policy only covers RBS Group’s lending and investment banking operations, not its asset management activities, meaning that the bank can invest in companies involved in “prohibited” activities on behalf of third parties.

The Don’t Bank on the Bomb Scotland (DBOTB Scotland) network wrote to RBS Group’s chief executive Ross McEwan in April 2018 requesting that the bank adopt a comprehensive policy prohibiting any involvement with nuclear weapons producers. The response stated that the group regularly reviews its ESE policies and had “noted the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in July 2017 and also the UK’s response and intention not to sign or ratify”. The response said that “in light of this we did not carry out a reassessment of our Defence Sector ESE policy position”.

We believe that RBS Group can be persuaded to change its policy if enough customers tell the bank that they will move their money unless it stops funding nuclear weapons. Please write to RBS Group’s CEO Ross McEwan to request that the bank adopt a comprehensive policy against nuclear weapons investment: ross.mcewan@rbs.co.uk. See section 8.2 for guidance on how to engage with banks and click here for our template letter.