Simon McRae, Friends of the Earth EWNI, +44 (0) 7779146043
Johan Frijns, BankTrack, +31 30 2334343
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BankTrack warmly welcomed a recent announcement from the United Nations Environment Programme’s Financial Initiative (UNEP FI) to weed out “free riders” -- financial institutions which signed the UNEP Statement by Financial Institutions on the Environment and Sustainable Development (“UNEP Statement”), but have done little to demonstrate their commitment to the values contained therein.
In a 24 February 2005 letter to all UNEP FI signatories, new UNEP FI Chairman Martin Hancock (Westpac Banking Corporation) states that “the biggest challenge will be deciding where we can add the most value to our members and the sustainability agenda”. He also warned that “there will be a concerted effort over the next six months to part company with those institutions that do not pay their requisite fees or abide by the Statements they originally signed up to. This is important if the UNEP FI brand is not to be undermined.”
In 2002, after meeting with members of UNEP FI Steering Committee regarding the Initiative’s lack of accountability, thirteen NGOs wrote to UNEP Executive Director Klaus Topfer, stating, “before we consider further participation in the Initiative our principal concerns of the vetting of members and the removal of non-complying signatories needs to be addressed.”
“We welcome this step. Many NGOs have long urged UNEP FI to remove those signatories who show little commitment to these principles. This will bring more accountability and meaning to endorsing the UNEP Statement and indeed increase the relevance of UNEP FI for the sustainability agenda” said Johan Frijns, coordinator of BankTrack, an international network of NGOs monitoring investment banks.
“It’s essential that financial institutions report back regularly so they can demonstrate to the wider world they are meeting their commitments on sustainability”, said Simon McRae of BankTrack member Friends of the Earth EWNI, “The days that it was enough to merely sign on to a statement, without adding any teeth to it, are long over”.