Financing Climate Change: Carbon Risk in the Banking Sector

Boston Common Asset Management Report Calls on Banking Industry to Change Policies and Practices

BOSTON, July 15, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — Investors may unwittingly be investing in financial institutions that will be adversely impacted by the effects of climate change. The banking industry has not successfully integrated climate change risk into its long-term strategic planning, or understood the implications of this game-changing phenomenon for its business operations.

In a new report “Financing Climate Change: Carbon Risk in the Banking Sector” Boston Common Asset Management calls on investors to push for systemic change in the banking industry to address climate change risks.

“Banks are connected to every market sector, making them uniquely vulnerable to the economic and political uncertainty caused by climate change. Since banks are not required to disclose climate risks, investors simply cannot see the potential risks buried in their portfolios,” says Geeta Aiyer, president of Boston Common Asset Management. “The time to act is now.”

For nearly two decades, the Boston Common Asset Management team has engaged the global financial industry including regional development banks, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and the World Bank, to proactively address the environmental and social risks associated with project financing, lending, and investments. This includes Barclays, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, Mitsubishi UFG, ORIX, PNC Financial, and Standard Chartered.

Investors are advised to identify best practices and seek out the banks that use them while encouraging the development of strategic management plans to address climate change risk, capture new market opportunities, and increase data collection and reporting. “Shareholders should urge banks to be more transparent about the climate risks embedded in their business models, and call for comprehensive action,” says Lauren Compere, Director of Shareholder Engagement at Boston Common Asset Management.

Banks are encouraged to reassess climate risks and to vet opportunities through the following three action steps:

One: Recalibrate risk management to integrate climate change
Climate risk is one of many risks that banks face and it should be integrated into the risk management committee deliberations and compliance practices. Specifically banks should: conduct regular stress tests that model the effects of adverse climate events;

  • rebalance portfolios in view of potential risks from climate change;
  • consider the legal and reputational implications of investments; and
  • re-assess loan pricing with an eye to possible shifts in demand for high carbon fuels, and other climate-related changes in consumer behavior.
Banks are connected to every market sector, making them uniquely vulnerable to the economic and political uncertainty caused by climate change


Two: Drive financial innovation
Although climate change creates risk, it also creates opportunity. Banks should seek opportunities to finance, underwrite, insure, and invest in new products and services. Business opportunities include increasing energy efficiency, producing more renewable energy, and developing adaptive responses to climate change.

Three: Develop a long-term climate strategy
Investors need to understand both a bank’s overall environmental vision and the strategy for its implementation. Banks must move beyond anecdotes about individual funded projects and instead provide company-wide assessments of the implications of climate change. Specifically banks should:

  • Measure and disclose total carbon footprint
  • Align banker compensation with longer-term goals
  • Incorporate climate change considerations into board oversight mandates

In conjunction with the publication of this report, Boston Common Asset Management is organizing a global investor coalition to write to 50 banks that are the largest underwriters to carbon intensive industries. The letter calls upon banks to develop a long term climate strategy, helping investors make informed decisions and encouraging banks to play a positive role towards a more sustainable future.

The information in this document should not be considered a recommendation to buy or sell any security. The securities discussed do not represent an account’s entire portfolio and may represent only a small, or past portion of an account’s holdings. Past performance does not guarantee future results. All investments involve risk, including the risk of losing principal.





About Boston Common Asset Management
Boston Common Asset Management specializes in sustainable and responsible global equity strategies. It seeks long-term capital appreciation by investing in diversified portfolios of high quality stocks. Through rigorous analysis of financial, environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors, the firm identifies innovative, high quality, and attractively valued companies for investment. On behalf of its shareholders, Boston Common urges portfolio companies to improve transparency, accountability, and manage for the long term. The firm manages US, International, and Global portfolios for institutions and individuals through separate accounts, commingled, and mutual fund