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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

Dr Nina Seega, Director, Centre for Sustainable Finance, CISL, said:

“Banks mirror the real economy, and their success is closely tied to the prosperity of their clients and the communities they serve. In an era marked by the unpredictability of economic transitions, banks are poised to play a pivotal role as essential partners for those facing vulnerability in both client relationships and communities. Today, banks have a unique opportunity to shape their strategies for financing a just transition for their clients, including SMEs.”

Professor Raghu Rau, Sir Evelyn de Rothschild Professor of Finance, Cambridge Judge Business School, said:

“The net-zero transition is an economic transformation that promises a sustainable future, yet it carries the potential to intensify societal challenges. Banks, as integral players mirroring the real economy, must adopt a just transition approach. Focusing on small-medium enterprises (SMEs), which are central to the climate transition, banks can mitigate risks, support vulnerable clients, and forge a path toward a net-zero economy where all thrive.”

Professor Judy Muthuri, Professor of Sustainable Business and Development, Nottingham University Business School, said:

“The small-medium enterprises are critical economic actors in the efforts to build a sustainable and resilient future but they face insurmountable challenges to deal with climate change associated pressures the just transition presents. The SMEs need the support of all actors, in particular the banks, to help green their business processes, products and services. For the bank, this makes a good business sense and it is also the right thing to do as they co-create shared value with the SMEs.”

Dr Mohsen Gul, Senior Project Manager, Centre for Sustainable Finance, CISL, said:

“Meaningful participation is not merely a term; it is the essence of a just transition. While identifying acutely vulnerable SMEs is a pivotal first step toward net zero, it is continuous engagement that truly fosters an inclusive journey. By giving acutely vulnerable SMEs a voice, banks are empowering their clients and enriching their own understanding of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.”

Gary Lapthorn, Head of Sustainability & Responsible Business, Lloyds Banking Group, said: 

“Helping SMEs navigate the challenges of Net Zero and embrace business opportunities is vital. There is no Net Zero without SMEs. The bank action guide is a helpful summary of the approaches financial institutions can take in supporting SMEs on their journey.” 

Rob Barker, Programme Director, Centre for Sustainable Finance, CISL, said:  

“Enabling SMEs to transition requires a further USD 50 trillion of financing. Achieving this will necessitate a transformation of current banking practices through incremental and/or radical shifts to business processes and operating models. By adapting and expanding their array of financial and non-financial services, banks can help ensure that even the most vulnerable SMEs are not overlooked or left behind.” 

Read Bank Action Guide: Towards a just transition for small–medium enterprises (SMEs)