New research puts big banks’ sustainability claims in doubt

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New research from responsible investment watchdog ShareAction reveals the leading practices by European banks across eight critical climate and biodiversity-related topics.

These include net-zero targets and alignment, high-carbon disclosures, sector policies – relating to coal, oil and gas, shipping, and biomass- biodiversity, and executive remuneration.

It shows that, while some banks are demonstrating leadership on specific issues, no European bank has a comprehensive plan to ensure sustainability across all topics.

Xavier Lerin, Senior Banking Analyst and an author of the report, said, “Our research shows that there is a large disparity between the credentials of leaders and laggards on each environmental issue. There is no excuse for banks which have not yet adopted the leading practices of their peers, though it should also be noted that, in many cases, even the leading practices in the sector continue to fail basic litmus tests on climate and biodiversity.

“Moreover, no bank demonstrates leading practice on all issues. As such, there is a huge amount that all banks can do right now to address their environmental impacts and we call on them to publish credible climate and biodiversity strategies ahead of COP26,” he added on September 6.

Net-zero targets

Twenty of Europe’s 25 largest banks have pledged to zero-out emissions from their portfolios by 2050 at the latest. But very few have started taking more concrete steps to achieve this goal.

Only three banks – Lloyds Banking Group, NatWest and Nordea – have committed to halve their financed emissions by 2030 to ensure they are on track to meet their 2050 target. Eight banks have set interim targets for the most carbon intensive sectors, but only three of them – Barclays, Crédit Agricole and NatWest – use an absolute emissions metric or complement their targets with additional financed emissions disclosures to ensure their targets lead to an actual decrease in emissions. And even though 65 per cent of banks’ fossil fuel financing comes from capital market underwriting, only Barclays currently covers these activities in its targets.


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Written by

Deirdre Tynan

Deirdre Tynan is an award-winning journalist who enjoys bringing the best in news reporting to Spain’s largest English-language newspaper, Euro Weekly News. She has previously worked at The Mirror, Ireland on Sunday and for news agencies, media outlets and international organisations in America, Europe and Asia. A huge fan of British politics and newspapers, Deirdre is equally fascinated by the political scene in Madrid and Sevilla. She moved to Spain in 2018 and is based in Jaen.

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