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Banking on the Environment
Jamais Cascio, 3 Jun 04

It may be inching towards Transcommercialism, it may be greenwashing, it may even just be good policy, but Bank of America now has environmental policies which appear to be heading down the right path:

We, at Bank of America, recognize that climate change and atmospheric pollution represent a risk to the ultimate stability and sustainability of our way of life. Bank of America is committed to addressing climate change issues even more so today, when we believe we can set real and achievable targets for greenhouse gas reductions in both our operations as well as investment opportunities

Goals for their environmental policies include: a 7% across-the-board reduction in greenhouse gases from both their own operations and the operations of their energy & utility investments by 2008; emphasize investments in efficiency and renewable energy; a blanket prohibition of lending to business operations that extract from rain forests and World Resources Institute "intact forest" sites; a prohibition of doing business with companies that directly or indirectly benefit from illegal logging operations; and more.

As corporate efforts go, these are worth applauding, but are hardly revolutionary. Nonetheless, it's good to see a major institution (and banks like B of A pretty much define traditional and conservative) openly embrace the need to do something about climate change and environmental degradation. It also adds to my suspicion that American governmental compliance with global enviro guidelines (like Kyoto) may eventually be moot, as more corporate entities decide on their own to make changes -- because of the need to comply with European rules, because of a perception of what the American market wants, or even because it's the right thing to do...

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That "green" lending and investing policy has the potential to be quite powerful...I wonder how one reviews them for compliance with internal directives, over time.

Posted by: Emily Gertz on 3 Jun 04

Thank you!

Posted by: Joanne Schoenwald on 3 Jun 04

Calls to mind the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. Not sure if this has been mentioned here or not, but this is an index of 300 or so companies that are leaders in their field according to the DJSI sustainability metrics (I admit I haven't read through their methodologies). It's targeted at fund managers who want to invest in such companies -- I'm sure many of you have heard about green mutual funds for years now (my wife was pretty surprised to find Volvo in hers -- her idea of green was a little different!).

I think it's great that DJSI provides this guidance for the Bank of Americas out there, though I note that the index tracks only the financial performance of the companies. If people are wanting to invest because of the blended value propositions these companies offer, shouldn't their dividends be measured in more than just profits? I think that's key to encouraging ownership of sustainability in the private sector.

Posted by: Jesse Fahnestock on 6 Jun 04



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