SASB, CDP, Ceres, 2DII and ShareAction vie to be part of oversight body for Principles of Responsible Banking

But Dutch NGO raises concerns about banks’ role in selection process

The Principles for Responsible Banking (PRB) is asking for feedback on prospective members of its pioneering Civil Society Advisory Group, with 45 bodies – including well known organisations such as SASB, Ceres, 2° Investing Initiative (2DII), CDP and Shareaction – vying to be part of the 12-strong advisory body.

The creation of the group was announced by the UN-backed body in the summer as part of wider governance changes, including the introduction of a delisting mechanism member banks.

Simone Dettling, Banking Team Lead at the UN Environment Finance Initiative, told RI at the time that one of the main roles of the civil society body was to monitor and provide “an independent view” on the collective progress of signatories, including contributing an assessment as part of a biennial Collective Progress Report.

A notable omission among the organisations, however, is Dutch campaign group Bank Track. Its Director Johan Frijns told RI that it did not apply as a matter of principle. 

“We do not exist in the world to help implement bank initiatives, but to track whether banks that sign up to them actually deliver on their promises and push them forward if they don't,” he said. Frijns also raised concerns about the role PRB member banks would play in the selection process of the civil society members. 

Last week, BankTrack reported that 10 Scandinavian banks, including Nordea and DNB, still held (as of June 2020) $7.1bn shares in fossil fuel companies, despite committing to be Net Zero by 2050 as signatories to the Principles for Responsible Banking. 

More than 200 banks, representing more than a third of the global banking industry, have signed up to the Principles, which were launched in 2019 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.

Next month, 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. 

The most hotly contested position is for the climate representative, with 14 nonprofits throwing their hats into the ring for the role, including influential think tank 2DII, US-based sustainability body Ceres, environmental nonprofit CDP and UK based campaign group Shareaction. 

Both 2DII and CDP are also pushing for the transparency & accountability role along with the US-based sustainability accounting standards body SASB.

Just one applicant is up for the Africa & Middle East representative role, The John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy, Civic Engagement & Responsible Business (American University of Cairo). UN’s Dettling told RI last year that finding groups to represent some geographies, especially developing economies, would be harder than others.

South Africa-based campaign group JustShare, however, has put itself forward as the representative for climate and transparency & accountability.

Full list of prospective members click here.

The three-week consultation ends on 26 February.