Big banks play growing role in curbing eco-destruction

Increasingly, green groups are both protesting against and partnering with major financial institutions that have the power to back — or not — environmentally destructive projects. “The private financial sector more than any other has the ability to begin the ecological U-turn modern society so desperately needs,” says Ilyse Hogue of Rainforest Action Network, which has led several protests against financial institutions. The strategy is producing results. Last month, demonstrators dogged JPMorgan Chase over its alleged connections to illegal logging in Indonesia and human-rights abuses related to a mine in Peru. Two weeks later, the bank announced plans for new policies that would help curb unlawful logging and promote indigenous people’s rights. And 30 major private banks have signed on to the Equator Principles, used to evaluate projects based on their possible effects on the environment and local peoples. “[M]any bank representatives have a sophisticated and advanced sense of the environmental, social, and reputational risks,” says Steve Kretzmann of nonprofit Oil Change.