American financial services firm US Bancorp has updated its climate policy to restrict the bank’s potential investments in coal.
After several months of community actions led by Minnesota-based MN350, a spin-off from 350.org, US Bancorp, or US Bank, has published a new Environment Policy which restricts the bank’s potential investments in coal and requires carbon pollution be taken into consideration in all future investment decisions.
In the bank’s revised Environment Policy (PDF), the firm explicitly refuses to “extend credit to, provide financing to, or participate in relationships involving individual Mountain Top Removal (MTR) projects or coal producers who rely on MTR for anything more than a limited portion of its firm’s overall coal production” — a sentence which starts out pretty good, and ends relatively limp. Additionally, US Bank “will not participate in any relationship involving or provide project financing or other forms of asset-specific financing for the development of new coal mines.” US Bank is also hoping to “continue to reduce our exposure to companies that operate within the coal industry.”
US Bank also “prohibits direct project financing of coal-fired power plants and relationships that involve constructing such plants.”
Unsurprisingly, however, advocates are unhappy, believing that the bank could have gone further.
“We are glad that US Bank is starting to limit their support for the fossil fuels that harm our communities,” said Ulla Nilsen, Corporate Accountability Organizer with MN350. “We also know they can and must do much more. To live up to their words on climate change, US Bank needs to end their financing of tar sands oil pipelines that are deadly to Indigenous communities, Minnesota’s most precious waters, and a safe climate.”
US Bank is also increasing its Due Diligence, focusing in part on:
- Past and present environmental compliance with laws and regulations
- Internal framework related to environmental risk management
- Potential impact on dependent communities and indigenous people
Industries or sectors set to be included in this “Enhanced Due Diligence” include:
- Coal mining
- Unconventional oil and gas production
- Hydraulic fracturing
- Oil sands
- Arctic, Alaska, or offshore oil extraction.
- Metals mining
- Electric power generation
The move is unsurprising, given the global climate, but even more unsurprising given the local climate. Community actions that intended to get the bank’s attention and pressure it to adopt firmer environmental policies included customers publicly closing their US Bank accounts, occupying bank lobbies, and spamming Bank executives’ inboxes with requests that they make changes. Climate advocates and community members also spoke at the bank’s annual shareholders meeting in Denver, earlier this year in April.
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