Early signs of collective progress as banks work to implement Principles for Responsible Banking

  • New baseline report provides a status update on how the global coalition of banks are implementing the Principles, highlighting progress made and challenges to be addressed.

Geneva, 14 October 2021 – A new report summarising the progress made by banks who have signed the Principles for Responsible Banking finds that signatories are showing early signs of collective progress and building the foundations to transform sustainable banking; however, momentum needs to accelerate in some key areas.

Published today by the UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), the report sets the first baseline to measure future progress, marking 1.5 years of the Principles’ initial 4-year time horizon. It includes an independent view from the Civil Society Advisory Body, a 12-member body mandated to support signatory banks to implement the Principles and assess progress.

Key findings from the report show early signs of progress including that 94% of banks identify sustainability as a strategic priority for their organisation, 93% are analysing the environmental and social impacts of their activities, and 30% are setting targets, with a strong collective focus on climate and financial inclusion. The report finds early indications of impact on the real economy, with USD 2.3 trillion of sustainable finance being mobilized.[1]

“The Principles for Responsible Banking are a crucial framework for the global banking industry to respond to, drive and benefit from a sustainable development economy.” commented Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “Sustainable finance is about creating prosperity for this and future generations, and this report shows early signs of progress made worldwide, while outlining steps to further accelerate action in critical areas.”

The UNEP FI banking board and secretariat say continued and accelerated action is needed from signatories. Suggested areas of improvement include enhancing the availability and quality of data, setting targets in line with improved impact analysis, and increasing action on critical sustainability issues such as biodiversity loss, equality and human rights.

“The Principles are a four-year journey of unprecedented scale and scope, where banks of all sizes from across the world have together been developing the tools and guidance to support their effective implementation,” said Siobhan Toohill, co-Chair of the UNEP FI Banking Board and Group Head of Sustainability at Westpac. “We must not only continue to build on the momentum evidenced in the first 18 months, but accelerate it to deliver on our commitments.”

Insights from the report will be used by the UNEP FI banking board and secretariat to further develop the work programme to support banks in scaling up their progress and addressing these key challenges. Under the framework, banks must publish their individual progress within 18 months of signing the Principles, and annually thereafter. The next progress report at a collective level is scheduled for 2023.

Notes

[1] Source: UNEP FI, as reported by 87 banks.

About the Principles for Responsible Banking

The Principles for Responsible Banking are a unique framework for ensuring that signatory banks’ strategy and practice align with the vision society has set out for its future in the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement. The Principles were created in 2019 through a partnership between founding banks and the United Nations, and are designed to bring purpose, vision and ambition to sustainable finance. Signatory banks commit to embedding these Principles across all business areas, at the strategic, portfolio and transactional levels. Over 250 banks representing over 40% of banking assets worldwide have now joined this movement for change and embarked on their 4-year journeys of impact analysis, target setting and reporting.

About the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative

United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) is a partnership between UNEP and the global financial sector to mobilize private sector finance for sustainable development. UNEP FI works with more than 400 members – banks, insurers, and investors – and over 100 supporting institutions – to help create a financial sector that serves people and planet while delivering positive impacts. UNEP FI aims to inspire, inform and enable financial institutions to improve people’s quality of life without compromising that of future generations. By leveraging the UN’s role, UNEP FI accelerates sustainable finance.

About the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.

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