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Banks and the Environment

Last modified: 09 April 2014

Environmental sustainability is a key part of Canada’s banks’ social responsibility efforts. Banks have established environmental policies, goals and practices that help guide their activities inside and out. Environmentally-oriented thinking is incorporated into a range of bank operations, lending, products and services and community activities.

Banks’ activities range from participation in conservation initiatives in communities across the country, to commitments to well-recognized domestic and international standards and reporting agreements. In fact, the five largest banks and others have committed to the Equator Principles — an international benchmark for social and environmental issues in project financing, and several banks in Canada have been recognized for their achievements in the environmental field.

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Sustainable operations
From recycling programs to energy conservation in offices and branches, banks are working to reduce their operational footprints on the environment.

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Sustainable lending
Banks take environmental protection into account when making lending decisions. In commercial and wholesale banking this means incorporating environmental due diligence into the lending process, which may include site visits, assessments of a client’s environmental record, or third-party reporting on proposals.

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Green products and services
Banks are developing new products and services that respond to consumer demand for sustainable choices, from paperless statements to co-branded credit cards.

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Community activities
Banks give generously to support environmental organizations and projects in cities and towns across the country.

Visit banks' websites for examples of environmental and community initiatives:

Sustainable operations

Some bank initiatives include:

  • Becoming carbon neutral relative to energy consumption and transportation emissions – worldwide.

  • Purchasing green power.

  • Cooling Toronto headquarters using the Enwave deep lake water cooling system.

  • Setting up new systems to encourage the reuse of surplus office equipment and furniture.

  • Making choices to reduce the amount of paper used in bank operations and choosing post-consumer recycled paper more often.

  • Reducing energy consumption in branches and offices by using programmable thermostats, economizing heating and air conditioning systems and energy-efficient lighting systems.

  • Using photo-cell technology that powers lights and exterior signage only when necessary.

Sustainable lending

Several Canadian banks have adopted the Equator Principles, a set of globally recognized, voluntary guidelines established to assess and manage social and environmental risk in project financing.

Here are some other innovations in sustainable lending:

  • Developing guidelines for transactions that have implications for forest-based diversity.

  • Working with clients to minimize the climate change effects of their operations.

  • Partnering with sustainable industries to enhance Canada’s green economy.

Green products and services

Here are just a few of the options customers have when it comes to sustainable banking:

  • Ongoing investment in electronic and telephone banking that means customers can leave the car at home and bank anytime anywhere.

  • Easy automatic payments reduce the need to write and send cheques by mail.

  • Paperless statements, bills and annual reports.

  • Some banks are donating to conservation charities as an incentive for choosing green products or paperless statements.

  • Some banks offer mutual funds that focus investment in ‘green’ companies. One bank offers a global climate change mutual fund that invests in companies that are mitigating the effects of climate change.

  • One bank is offering a special line of credit to help homeowners invest in energy-efficiency upgrades for their home.

  • Some banks offer credit cards co-branded with environmental charities.

  • One bank offers an automobile insurance product that allows customers to offset CO2 through a tree-planting program.

Community activities

Bank donations and sponsorships have supported projects ranging from community cleanups to national initiatives on climate change, water, air, biodiversity and more. Here is just a handful of the hundreds environmental projects and programs that Canada’s banks support each year. For a full list of community contributions, consult each organization’s public accountability statement:

  • BMO Financial Group has donated to environmental organizations such as Learning for a Sustainable Future and Evergreen.

  • BMO Financial Group employees have participated in the City of Vancouver’s Clean-up Day.

  • Canadian Western Bank sponsored the creation of the Richmond Cultural Centre’s rooftop garden in B.C.

  • CIBC is a supporter of the World Wildlife Fund Canada Arctic Program in Nunavut.

  • CIBC has donated to the Nature Conservancy of Canada to promote conservation at more than 50 of Canada’s most ecologically important sites.

  • Citibank Canada employees have donated their time to ReForest London and the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority.

  • Citizens Bank has donated to the Markets Initiative to assist industrial paper consumers switch to more sustainable alternatives.

  • HSBC Bank Canada supports the HSBC Clean Air Achievers program of Clean Air Champions, Evergreen and the Conservation Foundation of Greater Toronto.

  • ING Canada employees are active participants in environmental programs such as the Earth Day 20-Minute Clean-up, Smart Commute and the CN Tower climb to support the World Wildlife Fund as well as the Go Green Go Dutch Go Bike event.

  • Laurentian Bank employees participated in National Tree Day.

  • Manulife Bank sponsors the Greening the Gardiner initiative in Toronto, Ontario.

  • MBNA Canada supports Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) and sponsors the DUC-MBNA Conservation Fellowship-a grant program that funds graduate student research in waterfowl and wetland biology studies to advance environmental conservation in Canada.

  • Thanks to the participation of its employees, National Bank recently placed fourth in the Défi climat, a campaign to inspire people to take action against climate change.

  • RBC launched the Blue Water Project in 2007, a 10-year charitable grant program to support global solutions for freshwater preservation, conservation and access in Canada and throughout the world and supports Ducks Unlimited to preserve wetland habitats.

  • The Bank of Nova Scotia & SIFE Go Green Challenge was launched in 2010 to cultivate green leadership among university and college students and make a difference by unleashing the potential of youth to shape the landscape of Canada.

  • TD Bank Group's Friends of the Environment Foundation has invested more than $57 million in over 20,000 organizations ($3.6 million and 1,058 organizations in 2011) that protect and enhance the environment in local communities across Canada since its founding in 1990.

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