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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

5 May 2021 – The University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership’s (CISL) Banking Environment Initiative has published a new guide to bank-client engagement, which aims to address the need for a market-wide transformation in how banks and their corporate clients interact.

Download the guide 

It is imperative that banks and businesses achieve net zero as soon as possible in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Through the publication of Let’s Discuss Climate: The essential guide to bank-client engagement, CISL’s Banking Environment Initiative (BEI) aims to support relationship managers to enhance strategic partnerships with their clients for net zero transitions.  


Net zero commitments by the banking sector are a bold step, and one that is being taken by a growing number of institutions. A bank committed to aligning its portfolio with the Paris Agreement needs to take into account the emissions of its full value chain, namely those of the companies it finances. A bank, therefore, cannot succeed without supporting its clients and customers on their own decarbonisation journeys.

Let’s Discuss Climate: The essential guide to bank-client engagement builds on Bank 2030: Accelerating the transition to a low carbon economy (CISL, 2020). Focusing on the customer service model, this guide serves to equip relationship managers to have meaningful conversations with large corporate clients about their decarbonisation plans and associated financing needs.

Guide to bank-client engagement

CISL’s guide to bank-client engagement has been designed for immediate use by relationship managers and client facing staff and has been written with them in mind. It will also be valuable for sustainability strategy teams and those who structure the remit and education of relationship managers, including the heads of business lines.

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The guide consists of a five-phase approach. Each phase details the context and targeted outcomes, with helpful resources, guiding questions and ideas to support relationship teams in their research and preparation efforts.

Banks and relationship managers should adapt their use of the guide to best suit the client’s and bank’s baseline stating point. It is intended to be a reference guide that will be periodically updated with new information and relevant resources.


What our members are saying about the guide:

Viktoriya Brand, Head of Group Sustainability, Deutsche Bank said: 

“We see our collaboration with the Banking Environment Initiative as a great opportunity to explore jointly with peers and clients ideas and approaches to intensify our client dialogue to find solutions to the climate and broader sustainability challenges we face.” 

Steffen Kram, Global Head of ESG Solutions, Santander Corporate & Investment Banking said: 

“The Banking Environment Initiative’s guide to Bank-Client Engagement represents an important tool for the banking industry, to facilitate proactive support and solutions for our clients as they transition to net zero emissions.”  

Amit Puri, Global Head of Environmental & Social Risk Management, Standard Chartered Bank said: 

“All too often the ‘how’ of achieving Net Zero is not considered in sufficient detail. The guide to Bank-Client Engagement by CISL provides a practical, usable guide that bankers can follow to achieve net zero.” 

Read article from Peter Kanning, Global Head of Business Development, Sustainable Finance, HSBC on how the Guide reinforces the importance of dialogue and collaboration in solving climate change.



The authors of Let’s Discuss Climate: The essential guide to bank-client engagement were Jasminka Enderle, Annabel Ross and Thomas Vergunst at CISL. They were supported by Nick Villiers, Ben Kellard, Andrea Gangheri, Jason Teo and Anna Lowe.


The authors would like to sincerely thank members of CISL’s Banking Environment Initiative who supported the development of this guide, conducted pilot tests with their clients and provided valuable inputs:

Dr Penny Apostolaki and Vicky McAllister (Barclays), Henrike Pfannenberg (Deutsche Bank), Peter Kanning (HSBC Group), Teresa Brosnan (Lloyds Banking Group) and Martin McAspurn-Lohmann, Steffen Kram and Kirsty Meldrum (Santander Group).

We would also like to thank the following for their contributions during the research and/or consultation:

Matt Jolley (Barclays), Pauline Blandin and Karinne Chapel (BNP Paribas), Giulio Berruti (Business for Social Responsibility), Claire Elsdon (CDP), Joseph Power (CDP), Dr Bernd Rolinck (Deutsche Bank), James Niven (Global Alliance for Banking on Values), Jasmine Ling (HSBC), Tatiana Slepova (HSBC), Jonas Persson (Lloyds Banking Group), Anouck Veld (Robeco, a member of the Investment Leaders Group), Ross Horne (Santander Group), Amit Puri (Standard Chartered), Simon Crichton (Triodos), Mathieu Negre (Union Bancaire Privée, a member of the Investment Leaders Group), Puleng Ndjwili-Potele (UNEP FI – Banking), Tony Rooke (Willis Towers Watson, a ClimateWise member), Jacob Waslander (World Resources Institute) and Nate Aden (World Resources Institute, Science Based Targets initiative).

Citing this guide

University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL). (2021). Let’s Discuss Climate: The essential guide to bank-client engagement. Cambridge, UK: University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.

Download the guide 

Watch the Let's Discuss Climate webinar.


Find out more about the Banking Environment Initiative

Published May 2021


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The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of CISL, the University of Cambridge, or any of its individual business partners or clients.