US banks abandon ‘bare minimum’ environmental standards project, alarming climate groups (2024)

Four of the world’s biggest banks have left the Equator Principles, a set of minimum industry standards and safeguards for financial institutions to address environmental and social risks in countries where they finance fossil fuel and mining projects.

The Equator Principles have been around for more than two decades, and while not enforceable, they provide a basic framework of environmental standards that banks agreed would underpin financing deals on pollution-causing extractive projects.

The American banks – Citi, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo – are listed as having left the group of institutions that have signed the principles.

The news was condemned by climate groups as “shocking” and “cowardly”.

“It is a very troubling move by some of the biggest fossil fuel financing banks in the world to abandon a bare minimum set of standards that banks themselves have set. It is both ethically shocking and financially irresponsible. It is becoming increasingly apparent these banks do not care about anything other than the bottom line,” said Richard Brooks, the climate finance director at Stand.earth.

“This is yet another display of cowardice that shows how Wall Street is bending to pressure from climate-denier extremists rather than upholding some of their most basic climate and human rights commitments,” said Adele Shraiman, the Sierra Club’s fossil-free finance campaign senior strategist.

Spokespeople for the four banks all said they would continue to be informed by those principles, Reuters reported. But the banks’ names have been removed from the Equator Principles list, which now includes 10 standards for aspects of projects ranging from initial due diligence to grievance mechanisms.

The move is part of an alarming trend among banks headquartered in the US of backpedaling on commitments on the climate and to vulnerable communities affected by their financing deals.

Republican states have increasingly targeted “woke capitalism” and moved to pass laws to boycott banks and investors that embrace environmental, social and governance (ESG) investments. BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, was once a vocal champion of ESG, but now talks about “transition investing”.

Bank of America has removed explicit bans on financing coal and Arctic drilling projects. JPMorgan Chase has introduced an “energy mix” for calculating its financed emissions, which will include renewable energy and make it harder to assess the environmental impact of projects.

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The banks’ departure from the environmental standards benchmark is the latest example of major financial services companies leaving corporate environmental initiatives since US Republican politicians started suggesting participation could breach antitrust rules.

It’s unclear what impact the withdrawals will have, given that the banks in question are already the biggest funders of oil, gas and coal in the world, investing $1.4tn in fossil fuel projects globally between 2016 and 2022.

“The silent retreat from major US banks which are among the biggest financiers of fossil fuels globally from this initiative is deeply concerning,” said Aditi Sen, the climate and energy director at Rainforest Action Network. “It further undermines the rights of frontline and fence-line communities across the world who bear the brunt of impacts from toxic projects.”

US banks abandon ‘bare minimum’ environmental standards project, alarming climate groups (2024)

FAQs

US banks abandon ‘bare minimum’ environmental standards project, alarming climate groups? ›

The news was condemned by climate groups as “shocking” and “cowardly”. “It is a very troubling move by some of the biggest fossil fuel financing banks in the world to abandon a bare minimum set of standards that banks themselves have set. It is both ethically shocking and financially irresponsible.

Which US banks are leaving the Equator Principles? ›

Major US banks leave global environmental and social standards group. JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citi, and Wells Fargo have left the Equator Principles as the organization undergoes change, giving rise to questions about its future as a global standard and what the U.S. banks will do.

Which banks do not support ESG? ›

The two biggest banks have reversed course on their ESG initiatives. JPMorgan Chase and BlackRock have dropped out of the UN's climate alliance known as the Climate Action 100+ in addition to State Street Financial.

Which banks are bad for the environment? ›

Here we round up the six worst offenders – and where to switch your money so it ISN'T funding climate change.
  • JP Morgan Chase. JP Morgan Chase is an American multinational banking corporation with a growing presence in the UK. ...
  • Barclays. ...
  • HSBC (including First Direct) ...
  • Santander. ...
  • Natwest/ Royal Bank of Scotland. ...
  • Lloyds Bank.
Nov 27, 2023

Which banks do not invest in fossil fuels? ›

Starling Bank

App-based bank Starling says it expressly avoids “directly” funding fossil fuels, mining, arms and military, and instead invests in “government securities and other high quality liquid assets”.

What is the most protected bank in America? ›

JPMorgan Chase, the financial institution that owns Chase Bank, topped our experts' list because it's designated as the world's most systemically important bank on the 2023 G-SIB list. This designation means it has the highest loss absorbency requirements of any bank, providing more protection against financial crisis.

What are the three US regional banks collapse? ›

The unexpected collapses of three banks - Silicon Valley and Signature in March 2023 and First Republic in May - put a spotlight on how lenders managed risks to assets and liquidity as the Federal Reserve raised interest rates aggressively to bring surging inflation under control.

Which 4 banks are in trouble? ›

First Republic Bank failed on April 28, 2023. Signature Bank failed on March 12, 2023. Silicon Valley Bank failed on March 10, 2023. Almena State Bank failed on October 23, 2020.

Which bank is accused of greenwashing? ›

Barclays is being accused by environmental groups of greenwashing after helping to arrange €4bn (£3.4bn) in financing for the Italian oil company Eni in a way that allows them to qualify towards its $1tn sustainable financing goal.

Which two banks are in trouble? ›

About the FDIC:
Bank NameBankCityCityClosing DateClosing
Republic First Bank dba Republic BankPhiladelphiaApril 26, 2024
Citizens BankSac CityNovember 3, 2023
Heartland Tri-State BankElkhartJuly 28, 2023
First Republic BankSan FranciscoMay 1, 2023
55 more rows
Apr 26, 2024

What's the most ethical bank? ›

Here are our top nine ethical banks and building societies in 2024:
  • Triodos Bank.
  • Charity Bank.
  • Ecology Building Society.
  • The Co-operative Bank.
  • Coventry Building Society.
  • Nationwide Building Society.
  • Starling Bank.
  • Gatehouse Bank.
Apr 3, 2024

What is the least ethical bank? ›

Chase Bank remains the world's biggest funder of climate chaos since the Paris Agreement. Our other three least ethical banks, Citi, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America, are still among the top 5 fossil financiers since 2016. Let's take a closer look at how these banks use your money.

Which bank is the most environmentally friendly? ›

Top environmentally friendly banks of 2023
  1. Aspiration Bank (USA) Aspiration Bank, a B Corp certified online neobank that concentrates on sustainability and social responsibility, is distinctive. ...
  2. Spring Bank (USA) ...
  3. vdk bank (Belgium) ...
  4. Beneficial State Bank (USA) ...
  5. Triodos Bank (The Netherlands) ...
  6. Sunrise Banks (USA)
Feb 27, 2024

What are the problems with the Equator Principles? ›

Equator Principles are voluntarily imposed standards, and there are currently no penalty or sanctions for non-compliance. Critics claim that it lacks “appropriate accountability, monitoring and auditing systems” and is ineffective since credible deterrents and formal sanctions are absent.

Which US bank has gone bust? ›

Silicon Valley Bank Failure

The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) in San Francisco on March 10, 2023, stands out due to its rapid fallout and the significant impact on the tech and startup industry. At the time, it was the second-largest bank failure in U.S. history since the 2008 financial crisis.

What is the most sustainable bank in North America? ›

BMO Ranked North America's Most Sustainable Bank by Corporate Knights for Fourth Consecutive Year. Ranked the number one bank in North America on Corporate Knights' 2023 Ranking of the World's 100 Most Sustainable Corporations.

What are the Equator Principles of TD bank? ›

The Equator Principles are the recognized industry standard for environmental and social risk management in project financing across the financial services sector.

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