As part of our 1,000 Business Climate Pledges campaign we spoke exclusively to Coutts CEO Peter Flavel.

Peter Flavel has his own, very personal perspective on the global climate emergency.

The Chief Executive of Coutts Bank, part of NatWest Group, is Australian and his family background and experience have helped inform his views.

NatWest is looking to become the number one bank challenging climate change.

A new campaign to encourage 1,000 businesses to make at least one climate pledge has been launched by NatWest and Newsquest.

The initiative comes ahead of the COP26 conference in Edinburgh in November - NatWest is one of the key sponsors.

One of the key objectives of COP26 is to make further progress towards global net zero by 2050.

Alison Rose, the chief executive of NatWest, has put the climate emergency front and centre of her organisation's priorities.

In an exclusive interview with Newsquest, Mr Flavel, explained: "I come from Adelaide in South Australia, the dustiest state in the driest continent. My grandparents and great-grandparents were farmers and it's a tough life on the land, it's been a tough life forever because there is not a lot of rain.

"What has happened with climate change has exacerbated how things are there. There's obviously a heightened awareness not just because of the fires everyone around the world has seen on their television screens, but the floods too.

"I also lived in Singapore and Hong Kong for 17 years and saw at first hand the effect of climate change there."

Mr Flavel says it is quite clear to him that governments can't sort out this issue alone. Business, families and individuals have a role to play.

"It's not a question that everyone can do something. They must do something. It's not a choice."

Mr Flavel joined Coutts as Chief Executive in 2016 and has more than 30 years of experience in financial services across Asia, Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and Africa.

Prior to joining Coutts he was CEO of JP Morgan Wealth Management in Asia.

Coutts is a member of the Sustainable Markets Initiative, headed by the Prince of Wales.

The Prince has had the 'convening power' to bring together big banking names like JP Morgan, Bank of America, Coutts, HSBC and Standard Chartered together with the airlines, energy companies and other sectors to form a coalition for concerted action.

Mr Flavel said: "Business has got to step up and realise just how big a part it has to play. But individuals also have decisions to make about how they live their lives."

Coutts been around 329 years and the biggest part of what it now does is look after 20,000 of the most influential and successful businesses in the UK.

"We want to leverage that influence so it's not just about what we can do in our own backyard," Mr Flavel explained. "We want to encourage as many of our clients to come with us on the journey and that is part of our role. Not everyone is convinced yet, but it's a democracy isn't it?"

He said the 'network effect' of many organisations working together was worth more than just the sum of those individual actions.

Coutts decided several years ago not to establish separate green funds.

All investments are ESG or Environmental, Social and Governance. In simple terms it means financial products and services contribute to sustainable development.

Mr Flavel said: "We just have one set of funds because we thought, if we are serious about this, everything we do should be ESG. And in fact our clients are getting better returns."

NatWest Group's Chief legal Officer, Michael Shaw, picked up the theme.

"We are encouraging our clients to do the right thing and we have a part to play in raising awareness. Behaviour is changing and that is largely about education and incentivising," he said.

He said there were a range of challenges and opportunities in the South West, a region he knows well and where Coutts and NatWest support 1.4 million customers and 88,000 businesses.

While the rising tide of property driven wealth is welcome, the issue of second homes across the region is a problem, he acknowledged.

"We are very aware of the distortions that rapid change can cause and the South West is a very good example of that. Sandbanks is a case in point where there is a lot of wealth, but you don't have to go too far to realise that people in other places are living much harsher realities.

"We are living through very challenging times with big changes and I think we are very aware of our responsibilities."

Did the pandemic knock the climate agenda a little off course for while?

"I don't think so," said Mr Flavel, who lived in Singapore during SARS in the early 2000s where things pretty much went back to normal after it was all over, including people jetting over to Australia once again "as though it was like getting on the Underground.

"People now have had a lot more time at home to reflect on a whole host of things including about life in general. I would think we have all had much more opportunity to consider the environment, the commute and recalibrate our appetite for travel."

Michael added: "I don't know how much of the behavioural change we have seen in the past 18 months will be permanent, but we have high hopes for COP26. We need it to be a success."