Our own environmental involvement tends to run more along the lines of bringing our own bags to the grocery store than chaining ourselves to doomed trees, but the fact that an increasing number of banks have been taking steps away from financing environmentally irresponsible projects still warms our little green hearts.
Banks Develop A Conscience
The New York Times reports that legal entanglements and public disapproval (which both threaten the bottom line) are discouraging banks such as Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Citibank from providing the funds for mining and harvesting projects that negatively impact the natural world. Projects such as oil extraction and mountaintop removal—both in pursuit of energy—inspire an incredible amount of backlash, and many banks no longer want to be associated with demonized destroyers of the environment.
Environmental Responsibility Is Nothing New
Since the 1980s, banks have been aware of the moral dilemmas that come with fronting the money to blow the tops off of mountains. In 1996, legislation was passed that imparted some responsibility to banks when environmental mishaps resulted from operations they financed. Some banks instituted environmental risk management divisions, but now more technology, more opportunities, and more damage require these institutions to re-evaluate their involvement. Consequently, many large banks have created standardized assessments to evaluate their impact on climate change.
Every Drop In The Bucket Counts
On an individual level, going green can be a fairly simple—but sometimes costly—undertaking. Yet on a corporate level, where $78 million is considered a small loan, an environmental conscience has the potential to make a real difference. Ideally, this pattern of banks resisting environmental damage and climate change will coincide with the awareness of individuals who realize that this large-level funding of risky projects exists only to accommodate a world full of individuals who need more and more energy to charge their smartphones. Perhaps we still won’t stage a coal-mining protest between work and a workout, but we will turn off the faucet.