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Sustainable finance: What a difference a decade makes

Ten years on from a financial crisis often portrayed as caused by the greed of bankers, we are talking recycled carpets and alleviating poverty. It is a genuinely good thing.


This year’s award season has been a true eye-opener in showing just how far the financial industry has come in sustainable finance and corporate responsibility

There have been reams (digital eco-friendly reams, of course) of pitches on achievements, ranging from recycled carpets to supporting employee conversations about events taking place outside work, such as domestic violence or white supremacist rallies. 

We have seen the creation of entirely new products like BNP Paribas’ philanthropy kicker note in Brazil, the development of community land trusts for affordable housing by Citi and the largest green bonds to date. 

At the global banks committed to sustainable finance, those interviewed echoed each other’s sentiments: this has not been an easy road to travel. Ending long-standing business relationships and losing employees and clients that do not share the new culture takes its toll. If banks were once the recipients of hate mail from green campaigners, now they have to contend with being blamed for the closure of fossil fuel industries. 

But what other option is there? they ask. Sustainable business is good business, and being a supporter of it attracts bright young talent – plus they are enjoying their jobs much more these days and they get to sleep well at night. 

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