New York The Equator Principles Association, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program (BBOP) today announced the launch of a pioneering training program to help banks incorporate the value of nature into their lending decisions.
The Biodiversity for Banks (B4B) program is designed to help financial institutions overcome the challenges of incorporating risks associated with biodiversity and ecosystem services – all of the valuable resources provided by nature including safe drinking water – into their lending decisions.
B4B originated in a discussion between Citi, the current chair of the Equator Principles Association, and WWF on the challenges these issues pose to banks.
Courtney Lowrance, a Director of Environmental and Social Risk Management at Citi, explained, "When the International Finance Corporation revised their Performance Standard 6 for Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Natural Resource Management, we saw a rise in the need for capacity building within the financial sector. This created an important opportunity to provide a high-value program to increase awareness and commitment towards the management of biodiversity and ecosystem services."
B4B is developing and will deliver a set of training materials to assist the banking community in addressing these risks related to projects and broader client assessments. As part of this process, more than 20 banks from 15 countries, including Citi and Bradesco, met in late October at the WWF headquarters in Washington, D.C., as part of an inaugural training workshop.
"This program allows banks to really delve into how they account for the value of nature over the course of a transaction, because conserving nature also means conserving the life-supporting services nature provides for people," said Mark Eckstein, WWF's head of International Finance. "Banks that are participating in this program recognize that biodiversity is a material issue in their lending decisions and enhance their ability to manage biodiversity risks and opportunities in their business."
Beginning in 2005 with the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and more recently with an initiative spearheaded by the United Nations Environment Program called The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), there has been a steady rise in the call for banks to account for biodiversity in their lending and investment decisions.
Recognizing the need to partner with organizations that could provide the necessary expertise, Citi and WWF approached the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program (BBOP), an international partnership of companies, NGOs, governments and banks coordinated by Forest Trends.
The B4B training program includes a web-based resource center, a training course delivered during regional workshops, a training manual and a series of case studies across sectors and geographies. Regional workshops are open to any financial institution and are currently being scheduled for 2012 with plans for Sao Paulo, Johannesburg, Singapore, London and Beijing. The complete workshop schedule is available on the B4B resources center on the Equator Principles website at http://www.equator-principles.com/index.php/best-practice-resources/B4B.
Citi, the leading global financial services company, has approximately 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions. Citi provides consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, transaction services, and wealth management.
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Equator Principles Association
The Equator Principles (EPs) are a credit risk management framework for determining, assessing and managing environmental and social risk in project finance transactions. Currently 73 adopting financial institutions in 27 countries have officially adopted the EPs. www.equator-principles.com
Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program
The Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program (BBOP) is a partnership of over 75 leading companies, governments, conservation experts and financial institutions worldwide that is exploring and testing biodiversity offsets. BBOP has developed a set of consensus principles for best practice on biodiversity offsets and will be publishing a draft standard on biodiversity offsets in January/February 2012. The group has developed practical guidelines on biodiversity offset design and implementation for project planners in companies, governments, conservation groups and communities; and a portfolio of pilot projects around the world that aim to demonstrate ‘no net loss' of biodiversity and livelihood benefits in the context of particular development projects. BBOP is a program of Forest Trends, which provides the BBOP Secretariat with partner WCS. See: www.forest-trends.org/biodiversityoffsetprogram/
World Wildlife Fund
WWF is the world's leading conservation organization, working in 100 countries for nearly half a century. With the support of almost 5 million members worldwide, WWF is dedicated to delivering science-based solutions to preserve the diversity and abundance of life on Earth, halt the degradation of the environment and combat climate change. Visit www.worldwildlife.org to learn more.