The net-zero world

We all have a stake in the quest for a low-carbon world. We all have a cause to act, and act now.

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Avoiding 1.5°C of warming is now a global, social objective – we need to commit to the world’s full decarbonization by 2050, as just reducing the carbon footprint isn’t enough to stop the climate warming. For a substantial change to take place, carbon emissions need to fall to zero and emissions of other greenhouse gases need to be as close to nil as possible. Unavoidably, some sectors will struggle to bring emissions down fast enough, but these can be and need to be offset by negative growth to reach the “net zero.” The pressure is on.

The increasingly carbon-constrained world sets both challenges and opportunities for private and institutional clients to finance climate-smart solutions and future-proof their portfolios. Sustainable investments (SI) are now our preferred solution for private clients investing globally. Managing USD 793 billion in core SI assets, we are the first major global financial institution to make this recommendation. Through our SI-focused strategy, we want to give our clients actionable tools and techniques they need in shifting toward carbon neutrality.

But what are we, as a firm, doing about our own environmental impact? For a time now, we have been making a conscious effort to make our carbon footprint as small as possible. We set an ambitious goal to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent from 2004 levels by 2020. Last year, we met and exceeded that goal – we’ve cut UBS’s footprint by 79 percent compared with 2004.

We consider environmental factors throughout the life cycles of all our buildings, from before we move in, until we leave. We’ve been increasing energy efficiency by replacing fossil fuel-based heating systems with renewable ones. Over the last decade, we’ve been continuously reducing our energy usage and, as of 2020, we source 100 percent of our electricity consumption from renewable sources. Due to the pandemic, many employees needed to work from home over the past year, which increased the overall server and storage demand. But as our data center portfolio continues to be consolidated and optimized, data center consumption in 2020 was reduced, and contributed to a three percent reduction in energy use compared with the year before.

With pandemic restrictions imposed, travel has more or less come to a halt and we have been limited to working from our domiciles. Compared with 2019 levels, in 2020 we saw a reduction of more than 80 percent in business travel, mainly as a result of COVID-19. The spread of the virus has accelerated our efforts in reducing our carbon footprint in more than one way – our total paper consumption is at an all-time low, so is the water and waste utility. Practicing social distancing and working remotely have had many effects – with the full spectrum yet to be seen, but the drop in greenhouse gas emissions is one to be welcomed.

UBS’s greenhouse gas footprint

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Environmental indicators per full-time employee in 2020

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More about our climate strategy is available at

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