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BankTrack calls upon banks to Close the Gap on investment policies

New report evaluates quality of investment policies of 49 banks; more policies in place, overall quality below what is required
By BankTrack | Nijmegen, the Netherlands, Apr 27 2010

BankTrack, the international NGO network monitoring the banking sector, today presents Close the Gap, an extensive research project on the quality of lending and investment policies of major international banks [1]. The results are available as a report and online website section.

The aim of the research project was to evaluate to what extent banks have incorporated sustainability criteria into their lending and investment policies. To assess the quality of policies, BankTrack has evaluated the policies of 49 banks from 17 countries for seven key business sectors and on nine sustainability issues.[2] In addition, the project reviews the performance of banks on transparency and accountability. All policies are scored on a scale from 0 to 5, using a benchmark developed by BankTrack in cooperation with Profundo, an economic research consultancy.

To stimulate banks to make public commitment on their sustainability goals, the assessment only includes policies that are placed in the public domain and can be reviewed by the public. The report also only focuses on the commitments made in the policies itself; it does not assess banks' implementation of the policies.[3]

Close the Gap is the third study of this kind undertaken by BankTrack to stimulate the development of world-class investment policies by the banking sector. It was preceded by Shaping the future of sustainable finance in 2006 and Mind the Gap in 2007.

Jora Wolterink, responsible within BankTrack for the Close the Gap research: "The results of the report show a mixed picture. Despite the turmoil caused by the financial crisis, many banks have continued to develop more policies covering more sectors and crucial sustainability issues. Yet notwithstanding some encouraging exceptions, the overall quality of policies still leaves a lot to be desired. We hope this report encourages banks to continue this process, and to disclose more information on their policies."


  • More banks have more publicly available policies in place. In 2007, 27% of the banks had policies in place on military industry and arms trade, with 49% in 2010. Banks have also developed more policies on power generation; from 9% in 2007 to 29% in 2010. 22% of banks developed policies on mining and oil and gas, compared to 9% in 2007. Only 6 banks out of 49 have developed no policies at all (Bangkok Bank, Bank of China, China Construction Bank, DekaBank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and Kasikornbank).
  • No bank has adopted policies for all sectors and issues covered in the report. WestLB (Germany) and Barclays (UK) come close, with only the issues Taxation and Operation in conflict zones not covered by their policies.
  • Most policies do not meet the criteria for what BankTrack considers an adequate, let alone a good policy; the large majority of policies received a score of only 1 point. Only in a few cases do banks meet most of the requirements for a good policy, for example HSBC for its sector policy on forests (4 points) and Rabobank's policy on Agriculture (3 points).
  • The sectors with the highest average scores are mining, oil and gas and power generation, each with an average score of 0,83. The highest score on each sector is 2; Rabobank on mining and oil and gas, West LB and Standard Chartered Bank on power generation.
  • The issue with the highest average score is indigenous peoples, with an average score of 0,94. Highest score was 2 for Morgan Stanley, JPMorganChase and Rabobank.
  • On transparency procedures, banks score an average score of 1,5. Highest score is 3 for Banco Bradesco, HSBC, ING, Intesa Sanpaolo).
  • On accountability, banks score an average score of 0,81. Highest score is 2 for Intesa Sanpaolo, Itaú Unibanco, National Australia Bank, Nedbank, RBS, Santander, Scotiabank and Westpac.
  • The bank with the highest average score for both sectors and issue policies is Rabobank, with an average score of 1,7. The bank receives the highest score in 5 sectors and 3 issues. Second best scores HSBC (1,2) followed by ING (1,16). Santander and WestLB share position four with an average score of (1,1).
  • 28 banks out of 49 banks have developed own policies on climate change, reflecting a growing awareness of banks that this is a crucial issue to tackle in their business operations. However, the quality of almost all policies is below standard, lacking for example clear commitments on phasing out financing of fossil fuel exploration and coal power plants. No bank receives a score of 2 or more, with 46 banks scoring 1 point.
  • On corruption 37 banks score 1 point. RBC, Santander and Standard Chartered Bank score best with 2 points. Not a single bank has developed specific policies on how to operate in conflict zones, which leads to a poor score for all banks. Only HSBC mentions the subject in its mining and metal policies and receives 1 point.

Johan Frijns, BankTrack coordinator, states: "There are two big gaps that banks must close: one is between what is in now in place as policies and what is required to adequately deal with sustainability issues in a specific business sector. The other gap is between having well written policies in place and then putting them into practice in such a way that they make a real difference for local communities and the environment."


The research findings per sector and issue can be found here.
The final version of the Close the Gap report can be found here.


[1] ABN Amro, ANZ, Banco Bradesco, Banco do Brasil, Bangkok Bank, Bank of America, Bank of China, Bank of Tokyo- Mitsubishi, Barclays, BBVA, BNP Paribas, China Construction Bank, Citi, Commonwealth Bank, Crédit Agricole, Credit Suisse, DekaBank, Deutsche Bank, Dexia, Fortis Bank Nederland, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Industrial Bank, ING, Intesa Sanpaolo, Itaú Unibanco, JPMorgan Chase, KasikornBank (Thailand), KBC, Mizuho, Morgan Stanley, National Australia Bank, Natixis, Nedbank, Nordea, Rabobank, RBC, RBS, Santander, standard Chartered Bank, Scotiabank, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, Société Générale, Standard Bank, UBS, UniCredit, WestLB, Westpac.

[2] Sectors: agriculture, fishery, forestry, military industry and arms trade, mining, oil and gas, power generation. Issues: Biodiversity, climate change, corruption, human rights, indigenous peoples, labour, operation in conflict zones, taxation, toxics. Procedures: transparency, accountability.

[3] For examples of transactions that according to BankTrack do not meet adequate sustainability standards see the dodgy deal pages at the BankTrack website.



Netherlands: Jora Wolterink, Communication officer BankTrack, T: +31 24 324922

Brazil: Roland Widmer, Amigos da Terra Amazonia Brasileira  T +55 11 3887 9369


United States: Nell Green, Rainforest Action Network T: +1 510-847-9777


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