A letter I recently wrote to a number of European Union Commissioners:
‘Getting the Environment into Business!’
I recently e-mailed the Chief Executive Officers of a number of international companies from the energy, extractive mining and financial institutions asking them to take action with regard to their impact on the environment and their long-term future. I only had one reply and that was from a British bank. In their corporate social and environmental policy, they mentioned that they, along with a number of other financial institutions subscribe to a thing called the ‘Equator Principles’ when it comes to investing in various projects around the world. Having looked at these principles and found them ‘wanting’, it led me to think that if we could persuade financial companies to only allow their money to be invested in projects if they met strict environmental criteria, then that would force businesses and governments to act responsibly.
So, may I encourage you and your fellow Commissioners to encourage the European Parliament to approve a Directive, which will help financial institutions meet their and their customers’ obligations with regard to the environment and social cohesion, based on the following points:
A) ASSESSMENT TOOL
– Develop a tool for financial companies to use to determine the environmental impact of any project;
– This tool to also include whether they meet the BREEM building standards in their own or rented buildings, as well as that the projects concerned (if appropriate);
– And also its impact on reducing poverty in terms of improving sustainable and fair employment for local people as well as the infrastructure, appropriate to the country;
– The EPI of Yale University may be a starting point.
– Any tool needs to take into account not only CO2 emissions, but also that of other harmful gases, eg methane;
– It also needs to consider the effect on the local resident population of any said project;
– Assessments to be carried out by an independent ‘auditor’, with no links to the company in question.
– Carry out research to determine which international financial companies have a strict environmental policy which is enforced and encourage those that don’t to do so, and publish the results;
– Identify ways of recognising companies who have met the requirements of the tool to be used in marketing and media campaigns which benefit both the companies and the campaign;
– Assess the impact of current schemes, like the one run by the Rainforest Alliance, as to how effective they are, using standards from the ISO, and compare them with the tool developed by the EU.
– Seek to persuade the European and American banking regulatory bodies to legislate that all companies covered by their remit have an enforceable environmental impact policy, including on their overseas operations;
– Abolish tax heavens and to seek the lifting of Switzerland’s secrecy banking laws so as improve accountability and reduce money laundering (it would also reduce access to money for doubtful environmental projects);
– Insist on financial companies publishing on their website the independent report of any environmental impact of a project they intend to invest in so as to obtain constructive feedback from the people it will affect the most;
– Create an EU Directive to insist that all governments enshrine legislation to put these actions and points into practice as soon as possible.
As governments worldwide find it difficult to agree on what action to take with regard to the environment, especially on Climate Change, then this is a way forward in dealing with the problems.