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The Latest Corporate Social Responsibility News - Banking on Sustainability

Submitted by: CSRwire Weekly News Alert

Categories: Sustainability, Corporate Social Responsibility

Posted: Aug 05, 2008 – 11:59 PM EST


Financial institutions promote positive social and environmental impacts.

Aug. 05 /CSRwire/ - The past decade has seen a radical shift from viewing banks as far-removed from social and environmental impacts, to recognizing banks as the fulcrum of financing, and thus a key lever for achieving sustainability. The 2003 launch of the Equator Principles and the granting of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize to microfinance pioneer Muhammad Yunus cemented this link. Now, banking best practice is shifting from minimizing negative impacts to advancing positive change.

For example, Citi is partnering with Ashoka, a nonprofit that supports social entrepreneurship, to launch the Changemakers Competition. The award program seeks to identify innovative finance projects that promote economic and social justice. Already, 18 entries from 10 countries on 4 continents have been submitted, such as Banking without Barriers, established in 2007 to lower the entry threshold to spread banking services to the non-affluent in India.

Similarly, the Wachovia NEXT Awards for Opportunity Finance are distributing $8.25 million to the two most innovative community development financial institutions (CDFIs) serving low-income communities that are underserved by traditional banks. The program is co-sponsored by Opportunity Finance Network, the CDFI industry organization, and the MacArthur Foundation. Among the 10 semifinalist CDFIs are the Lower East Side People's Federal Credit Union in New York and the Low Income Investment Fund in San Francisco.

On the environmental side, Piraeus Bank is opening the first green banking branch in Athens, a first for Greece and the Balkans. The move fits into the broader context of the bank's environmental initiatives outlined in its recently released corporate social responsibility report, which follows the Global Reporting Initiative G3 guidelines. In addition to minimizing its own ecological footprint, the branch prioritizes financing clean technologies and environmentally beneficial services that help solve the climate crisis. For example, green banking encourages clients to explore the benefits of reducing energy consumption or building according to bioclimatic principles.

The Union Bank of California Foundation fuses promotion of green building with support for low-income families by contributing $5,000 to the first green home project for the Riverside, California chapter of Habitat for Humanity. The Suarez family contributed 500 hours of sweat equity in constructing the home, which features rooftop solar panels, radiant floor heating, and a grey-water system. The project, part of Habitat for Humanity International's effort to expand its use of green materials and building guidelines, was recently featured in a documentary airing on local TV.

This article was written by CSRwire contributor Bill Baue

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