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Westpac's plan to support farmers in net zero transition

11:30am November 13 2023

Westpac Business Banking chief executive Anthony Miller says the bank will continue to consult with farmers on new emission reduction targets for agriculture. (Getty Images) 

Westpac will take a pragmatic approach with its customers on new emission reduction targets for the agriculture sector, according to Business and Wealth chief executive Anthony Miller.

The bank is the first of the majors to outline the targets under the Net Zero Banking Alliance, an initiative to reduce emissions which all large Australian banks have joined.

Westpac has been working with the industry for several months before launching the new targets in beef, sheep and dairy. 

“We know that farmers manage their land better than anyone, so that’s why we’ve been talking with our customers and industry groups about the best way forward,” Miller said.

“We want to support farmers with their own long-term sustainability plans and help them meet the changing demands of supply chains. 

“That’s why we are outlining these emissions targets and we’ll work with farmers individually to ensure we are backing their businesses,” Miller said.

The targets include a plan for no deforestation from 2026, in line with existing law in most states.

Miller says the policy only applies to “natural forest” under the definition of the Science Based Targets Initiative. 

“We’re not telling farmers they can’t clear their land,” Miller said.

“The no deforestation policy does not apply to the clearing of regrowth or revegetation and nor does it apply to areas currently used for grazing. We understand that farmers need to manage their land, and they are the best stewards of the environment in which they live and work.

“This policy will apply to bush that’s been untouched for decades—larger areas of land with a high tree canopy and structured understorey and species consistent with a natural forest ecosystem.

Westpac’s agriculture sector targets are outlined in its 2023 Climate Report (PDF 9MB). The bank has now set targets in eight of nine NZBA sectors including aviation, iron and steel, power generation, commercial and residential real estate, coal, oil and gas.

Westpac’s National General Manager, Regional and Agribusiness, Peta Ward says her priority is on growing the bank’s agri business and appointing more agri-bankers.

The Toowoomba-based banker grew up on a beef property in south-east Queensland before studying Agricultural Science at Queensland University. 

“We want to be the banking partner of choice for farmers all over Australia,” Ward said.

“My message to our customers on these new targets is pretty simple – farmers know best how to manage their land. We’ll work with you in coming years and continue to support you as we have done for the last 200 years.”

Miller listed agribusiness as one of Westpac’s key growth sectors when he took over the running of the Business bank in August.

James Thornhill was appointed as editor of Westpac Wire in May 2022. Prior to joining the bank, he was a business and financial journalist with more than two decades of experience with international newswires. Most recently, he was a resources correspondent for Bloomberg, covering the mining and energy sectors, and previously reported on a broad range of topics from economics and politics to currency and bond markets. Originally from the UK, he’s had stints working in London, New York and Singapore, but is now happily settled in Sydney.

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