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Financial services

The financial services sector encompasses a broad range of businesses, from banks and investments to insurance and payments.

Every type of business will use financial services in some way, whether that’s to store their money or collect payments from customers.

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Introducing the financial services sector

Finance refers to anything relating to money. Financial services, as a sector, is made up of banking, credit, loans, payment services, tax, accounting, trading stocks, asset management, insurance and investing. It is intrinsically linked to the state of the economy, and can be affected by changes in interest rates, government policies and loans.

Financial services support both individuals and businesses with their money and wealth management. As well as large organisations, there are also numerous small and medium-sized businesses in the UK that work in this space. In addition, there are organisations in the UK that regulate the financial services sector to ensure equity.

The importance of going green in financial services

Whether financing projects that are critical to the net zero transition, pricing climate change and other environmental risks into asset valuations or engaging in carbon and other environmental markets where ecosystem services are priced and traded, the finance system has a critical role to play in moves towards a sustainable economy. Furthermore, many projects and companies that are designed specifically to help tackle environmental and social issues require investment.

As such, the financial services sector has a major role to play in creating a more sustainable and equitable future. With regulators such as the Financial Conduct Authority and the Competition Markets Authority taking an active interest in climate change and environmental sustainability, the quality of corporate reporting and sustainability disclosures is a critical reputation issue.

Financial services have a major role to play in tackling climate change, enhancing biodiversity and supporting communities over the coming years, and there are two key elements to this:

  1. Greening finance: Ensuring that financial services companies themselves are operating in a way that reduces their environmental impact, for example by having clear strategies on climate, energy, waste and resources.
  2. Financing green: Looking for opportunities where financial services can have a positive impact on the world around us by facilitating access to investment for organisations and individuals with a sustainability agenda. By providing finance to help drive innovation and allow projects to scale up, financial services have a key role to play in the transition to a green and fair economy.
To reach net zero by 2050, £100trn of investment is required in physical assets
£2trn was held in Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) funds at the end of 2022 – funds that have specific environmental, social and governance criteria
The Banking on Climate Chaos report showed that fossil fuel financing from the world’s 60 largest banks has reached £3.7trn in the six years since the adoption of the Paris Agreement
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GoCardless works across the financial sector, processing payment transactions and streamlining the process for businesses.

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IEMA is the membership body for environment and sustainability professionals