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.
From recycling programs to energy conservation in offices and branches, banks are working to reduce their operational footprints on the environment.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Bank donations and sponsorships have supported projects ranging from community cleanups to national initiatives on climate change, water, air, biodiversity and more. For a full list of community contributions, consult each organization’s public accountability statement.