Big banks sign on to stricter environmental and social guidelines

Big financial institutions are increasingly talking green — and some of them might even mean it. Forty-one lenders from around the world, including Citigroup and J. P. Morgan Chase, have signed on to the three-year-old Equator Principles, which call for investment projects to avoid harming the environment or local populations. Today the lenders unveiled a new, more rigorous version of those principles, which includes labor standards, calls for vetting of projects’ environmental and social impacts earlier in the process, and applies to all projects costing at least $10 million, down from $50 million in the original version. Some enviros wish the new principles required financial institutions to publicize more project details, but Jon Sohn of the World Resources Institute still applauded the changes. “[I]t looks like they are really creating better mechanisms for local communities to have their say before projects go forward on their land,” he said.