Client stories

King's College London develops UK university-first ESG framework

Find out how we recently supported King’s College London in developing the first Sustainable Finance Framework for a UK University.

Educate to inspire and improve

King’s College London is a world-class teaching and research institution with a distinguished reputation in medicine, law, humanities, sciences, and international affairs. The university is among the top 10 UK universities in the world (QS World University Rankings, 2020) and the fourth oldest university in England.

Its Vision 2029, the year King’s College will celebrate its 200th anniversary, sets out the university’s ambition to make the world a better place through ‘educating to inspire and improve’ and ‘research to inform and innovate’.

King’s College London is ranked 11th in the world in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings that measure universities against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This ranking recognises the university’s commitment to advance the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through a number of initiatives and collaborations with sustainability institutions and other higher education partners.

Sustainable Finance Framework pledges to assess research’s contribution to the SDGs

King’s College London realises its responsibility as a teaching and academic research institution to facilitate the evolution to a more sustainable economy and therefore is seeking to play a leading role in the transition. As such, the university wanted to align its ambition to its financing strategy and sought advice from NatWest to develop a Sustainable Finance Framework – the first of its kind for a UK university. 

NatWest worked closely with King’s to help them develop a holistic framework that captures both environmental aspects and social elements, allowing the university to raise sustainable debt through a mix of debt instruments, for example, bonds, loans and private placements. The six green categories stated in its sustainable financing framework range from green buildings, energy efficiency, sustainable water and wastewater management to renewable energy, pollution prevention and control, and clean transportation.  Examples of projects include the construction or refurbishment of campus buildings that have or will get a green building certification, and the upgrade of heating and cooling systems and electrical equipment, which contribute to climate change mitigation objectives.

To reflect the university’s commitment to facilitate the wider transition of our society to become more sustainable, King’s pledges, as part of the framework, that social proceeds will be used to finance projects in two categories: socioeconomic advancement and empowerment and access to essential services. The first category includes projects such as Ph.D. research, education, service, civic, and international engagement activities, which aim to promote scientific and societal advancement and advance one or more of the UN SDGs. The second eligible category includes projects to improve access to health and education, including scholarships and inclusive education facilities and projects.

NatWest also helped King’s College find a strategic partner to review their framework and assess its alignment to the International Capital Markets Association’s (ICMA) Green and Social Bond Principles.  The rating agency S & P provided this external verification.

Universities play a pivotal role in meeting societal challenges such as sustainability

Dominic Brindley, NatWest, commented: “We’re delighted to have supported King’s College London with the development of the first Sustainable Finance Framework for a UK University. We’re committed to actively contribute to social, economic and environmental progress in the UK through supporting initiatives such as this and many similar programmes”

Dr Arthur Krebbers, NatWest, added: “We’ve seen a growing momentum behind ESG debt in the UK public sector, so we’re excited to see King’s College London take a lead in the Higher Education sector. We expect more higher education institutions to follow in their sustainable footsteps.” 

Varun Sarda, NatWest, reflected: “It’s a great pleasure to have supported King’s College London as sole ESG structuring bank with its Sustainable Finance Framework, which underlines the pivotal role universities play in managing their own operational carbon and environmental footprint as well as conducting outward-looking research focused on meeting some of societies’ key challenges.”

Simon Cruickshank, Chief Accountant, King’s College London, said: “King’s strives to improve the direct impact it has on sustainability and, through investments in programmes and projects that further the UN SDG’s, support others’ in the UK and around the world to do so as well. In demonstrating a twin commitment to green projects and social improvements, we see this Sustainable Financing Framework as a further way to show our commitment to make the world a better place. Our framework marks a major milestone of our journey, and we are grateful to NatWest for their valuable insights, expertise and the excellent teamwork throughout this collaboration.”

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