More than 130 banks collectively holding $47 trillion (£38tn) in assets have committed to align their businesses with the goals of the Paris climate agreement and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The banks, representing around one third of the entire global banking sector, have signed up to the Principles for Responsible Banking – launched ahead of this week’s UN Climate Summit in New York – which provide a framework for a sustainable banking system and help the industry to demonstrate how it makes a positive contribution to society.
By signing up to the Principles, the banks, including Barclays, BNP Paribas, Santander, Standard Bank and Triodos Bank, said they will, among other goals, aim to “increase our positive impacts, while reducing the negative impacts and managing risks to people and the environment from our products and services”.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said: “The UN Principles for Responsible Banking are a guide for the global banking industry to respond to, drive and benefit from a sustainable development economy.
“How you, as business leaders, respond can be a defining moment for our global goals. Only public-private co-operation can deliver sustainable development.
“We will rely on you to scale up financing to businesses that stimulate green growth.”
He also challenged the banks, including BBVA, CIMB, Hana Financial Group, ING, Nordea, Shinhan Financial Group and Yes Bank, to support gender equality, invest in climate action and divest from fossil fuels in general.
The Principles were developed by a core group of 30 founding banks through an innovative global partnership between banks and the UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI).
Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) added: “A banking industry that plans for the risks associated with climate change and other environmental challenges can not only drive the transition to low carbon and climate-resilient economies, it can benefit from it.
“When the financial system shifts its capital away from resource-hungry, brown investments to those that back nature as solution, everybody wins in the long term.”