The 100-page World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report examined the financing policies of 39 international banks across 13 areas, from climate change to human rights.

Of the banks surveyed, the WWF found just two whose policies met all or most of the relevant international standards or best practices: Rabobank’s adoption of the UN Draft Norms on Human Rights and HSBC’s adoption of standards set by the World Commission on Dams.


The report follows high-profile campaigns by environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth and the Rainforest Action Group highlighting cases in which commercial banks were “bankrolling disasters”.

The WWF said although the world had moved from a “trust me” to a “show me” attitude towards its largest institutions, there was still “a near total lack of publicly available information” from them on lending policies in sensitive areas.

Many industries are covered by standards set by international agencies such as the UN. But the WWF says banks still have “blind spots”.

WWF chief executive officer Robert Napier said some “good work” has been done by a few banks, but there was “still a long way to go”. He said the lack of transparent policies could result not only in over-exploitation of environmental goods, but also increased financial risks.

The study found, for example, that no bank had standards for fisheries and agriculture; only one bank had a policy specifically for dams (HSBC), extractive industries (ABN AMRO) and chemicals (HSBC); and that the vast majority of banks had no human rights guidelines.

Even HSBC and ABN AMRO, which the report ranked most highly, had “vaguely worded policies” that included only “limited commitments” and failed “to meet international standards”.

Johan Frijns of BankTrack, an international network of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that monitors the finance sector said: “Before the banking sector congratulates itself too much for its successes, it should take a hard look at this report and tackle those problem areas where progress is urgently needed.”

Corporate and social responsibility officers take note.