Carbon-Neutral Banks ‘Aren’t Greener’

by | Oct 19, 2011

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Banks are fooling investors and the public with false claims of carbon neutrality, according to a report from carbon data publishing site Ecodesk.

In the Sustainability & Finance report, Ecodesk says that companies purchasing carbon credits are “buying their way” into a perception of sustainability, and that those banks claiming to be carbon neutral are no greener than their competitors.

Not only does this greenwashing mislead consumers and investors, the report says, but it prevents the banks from implementing real efficiency and environmental programs that could save them millions of dollars.

The report analyzes the world’s top 30 banks by turnover, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, HSBC, Barclays and RBS, comparing those who say they are carbon neutral with those who do not have a carbon neutral strategy. To qualify for the study, all participants must have an active and well-developed environmental sustainability strategy.

The banks studied collectively spent over $50 million on carbon credits.

Ecodesk CEO Robert Clarke said carbon neutrality is misleading to investors because it implies that companies have taken every reasonable route to carbon efficiency. But the study found that companies have not taken these steps.

The only notable exception was National Australia Bank (NAB), which uses the carbon price and the purchase of credits to drive eco-efficiency programs company-wide, the report said.

Banks that say they have gone carbon-neutral in recent years include TD Bank, BMO Financial Group – which were not big enough to be included in the Ecodesk report – and Danske Bank Group, which was included.

This week the Newsweek Green Rankings found that financial companies are among the most sustainable in America.

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