Principles for Responsible Banking seeks civil society groups for new advisory body

New advisory will help UN initiative hold banking signatories to commitments

The Principles for Responsible Banking has begun the search for members of its 12-strong Civil Society Advisory Group, the creation of which was announced by the UN-backed body in the summer as part of governance changes.

More than 190 banks, representing more than a third of the global banking industry, have now signed up to the Principles, which were launched last year in a bid to encourage banks to align their financing with broader societal goals such as the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Signatories themselves voted for the establishment of the advisory group earlier this year, along with the introduction of a delisting mechanism for those not living up to their commitments under the Principles.

Simone Dettling, Banking Team Lead at the UN Environment Finance Initiative, told RI in July that one of the main roles of the civil society body will be to monitor and provide “an independent view” on the collective progress of signatories, including contributing an assessment in the UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative’s (UNEP FI) biennial Collective Progress Report.

She added that the group will also be instrumental in helping to keep the framework in step with evolving global sustainability objectives and advising and supporting signatories on updates to the principles. 

Five civil society groups will be selected to represent global regions (North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa & Middle East and Asia Pacific) with a further five selected on the basis of their expertise in climate, biodiversity & ecosystems, human rights & gender, poverty & social issues and transparency & accountability. The other two positions on the board will go to representatives of bank clients and employees. 

 Earlier this week, civil society groups led by Dutch NGO BankTrack published a  “call to action for [PRB] signatory banks to set meaningful targets that genuinely align the bank with the Paris Climate Agreement and SDGs, to take measures to facilitate stakeholder engagement and respect all human rights and the specific rights of Indigenous People, and to be as transparent as possible about their progress in implementing the Principles”.

The call comes on the back of findings that 20 signatories alone – including Citigroup, Barclays, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and Mizuho Financial Group – have been responsible for more than $1.2trn in loans and underwriting to fossil fuels between 2016 and 2019.  

Last week, NGO ShareAction claimed that in the four months leading up to HSBC’s Net Zero pledge, it financed at least four fossil fuel companies “actively involved” in the construction of new infrastructure that is likely to undermine international climate goals. 

Membership to the Civil Society Advisory Group is on an institutional, not personal basis and the positions are available for a two-year term from March 2021 to February 2023. Full details here. Applications close on 15 December, 2020.