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Corporate responsibility: For banks to change, everyone must change

We need to change the banking model – and that means every person has to take some responsibility. Perhaps UNEP FI’s principles are the way forward.


In November, the Pandora’s box of ‘what is a bank’s responsibility to society?’ will be opened when the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) launches its Principles for Responsible Banking for public consultation. 

In some ways, it is amazing we are at this point where banks around the world are working with UNEP FI to create a framework around the role of banking; and in other ways it’s shocking that it has taken us so long to get here. 

We seem such a long way off having a banking industry that we can call ethical. There have been more than $300 billion in fines since the financial crisis. Just last year, EU and US banks were fined $11 billion, according to Capital Performance Group in Washington DC – and we look set for more of the same this year. That was down from around $30 billion in the previous two years, but it’s still billions in fines, and we haven’t even counted lawsuits filed and settled. 


It feels a little like basic banking ethics have been brushed aside for now as we enter a new arena, that of greenwashing: something that the European Commission is seeking to address with its taxonomy proposals for environmental finance and environmental, social and governance investment criteria in general.

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