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CDP Launches World’s First Disclosure Framework for Banks Integrating Climate and Forest Impact

This Week

  • CDP invited the most significant lenders in the forest risk commodities (FRC) sectors to participate in the Financial Services Climate Change and Forests Pilot, resulting in a sample of 10 banks disclosing (7 Southeast Asian and 3 global)
  • Participating banks have the sway to drive real change in the economy; holding loans of more than US$2.5 trillion and accounting for over 19% of all lending to FRC sectors in Southeast Asia
  • Pilot project was geographically focused on Southeast Asia, where 85-90% of the world’s palm oil is produced and financed
  • Participating banks focus mostly on one side of the ‘double-materiality approach’ and assess how environmental issues could affect their portfolios, but are less likely to assess how their portfolios impact the environment
  • The Pilot finds that Scope 3 portfolio emissions are the most significant source of GHG emissions for banks — over 400 times higher than operational emissions
  • Southeast Asian banks can close the gap with their global peers by improving their environmental management issues. Disclosure on forests must improve overall, especially relating to FRCs’ financing
  • Banks have the power to finance the transition to a low-carbon, forest-positive future starting with disclosure as the key first step

LONDON, UK – Media OutReach – 10 March 2021 – The world’s forests are critical in fighting climate change, contributing up to one-third of the mitigation needed to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 ˚Celsius. Amongst a host of ecosystem services they provide, forests also form a buffer to reduce the risk of zoonotic diseases spill over. Considering the current Covid-19 pandemic, the need to protect and restore the world’s forests has never been clearer.

Global environmental non-profit CDP unveiled the findings of their Financial Services Climate Change and Forests Pilot Questionnaire: the very first structured, self-reported disclosure framework for banks to report on climate and forest lending. The report was launched at a virtual webinar moderated by Corrado Forcellati, Sustainability Services Director, KPMG Singapore with panellists Rizal Mohamed Ali, Responsible Investment Vice President, KWAP; Felia Salim, Director, &Green Fund and Meixi Gan, Sustainability Deputy Director, Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

Key findings from these unique disclosures highlight that whilst banks have started to integrate environmental concerns into their structures and processes, there is significant progress to be made on long-term strategy and financing of FRCs. The results also confirmed that banks’ loan books have a vastly larger impact than their operations, with portfolio emissions potentially some 400 times higher than direct emissions.

Although the participating banks can describe their environmental risks well, their responses suggest they are currently more focused on one side of the ‘double materiality approach’. This means that while banks generally assess how environmental issues could affect their portfolios; they are less likely to assess how their portfolios would impact the environment.

While global banks are ahead of Southeast Asian banks in many areas, CDP notes that disclosure on forests must improve overall, especially relating to the financing of FRCs like timber, palm oil, cattle and soy — which are the largest cause of forests degradation and loss globally. Only one bank participating in the pilot disclosed on their financing of FRCs. Banks can demonstrate that their financing of FRCs is sustainable by increasing transparency.

In addition, the disclosures revealed great opportunities for banks in financing the transition to a low-carbon, forest-positive future. The potential financial impacts of environmental opportunities disclosed outweigh the potential impacts of risks disclosed, as well as the anticipated costs to achieve those opportunities.

One area of opportunity highlighted by almost all banks was providing financing to agricultural smallholders. Despite their significance in palm oil and rubber production, a lack of access to credit for smallholder producers is driving behaviours that result in forest loss and increased emissions. The smallholder financing and other engagement approaches disclosed by the banks represent opportunities to advance not only the environmental aspect of sustainability, but also the social aspect.

CDP’s report recognises the financial services sector is crucial in achieving the transition to a low-carbon and forest-positive economy. The influence of financial services companies extends far beyond their immediate operations to enable activities in the wider economy, which places them in a unique position to catalyze change by engaging with the companies they lend to, invest in and insure.

To this end, CDP concludes with recommendations for banks to trigger a leap forward to sustainable economies, starting from standardised, tailored disclosure of their impacts as the key first step. Other recommendations include:

  • implementing board-level oversight across environmental issues;
  • ensuring time horizons, assessments and processes around environmental issues are of a long-term nature;
  • strengthening reporting frameworks and fully disclosing lending practices;
  • considering the interconnectivity of forests with climate change, water and the natural world to properly assess risks, opportunities, and impacts.

Pratima Divgi, Director, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, Australia & New Zealand at CDP commented: “The financial services sector is the missing link to sustainable economies and plays a crucial role in mitigating climate change, driving the next evolution in CDP disclosure: pioneering forest-related indicators specifically for banks. Those that are leading the transition to sustainable financing activities will gain competitive advantage and improved long-term returns. CDP is a key partner in the journey toward corporate responsibility and disclosure is a positive first step to achieving a sustainable future for people and planet.”

Over the coming years, CDP will develop the financial services questionnaire to expand reporting globally to investors and insurers and integrate a comprehensive range of environmental themes.

To learn more about CDP and its research on global environmental impact, visit their website at https://www.cdp.net/en or download the full media pack including report, policy briefing, infographic, webinar recordings and more here.

About CDP

CDP is a global non-profit that runs the world’s environmental disclosure system for companies, cities, states and regions. Founded in 2000 and working with more than 590 investors with over $110 trillion in assets, CDP pioneered using capital markets and corporate procurement to motivate companies to disclose their environmental impacts, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, safeguard water resources and protect forests. Over 10,000 organizations around the world disclosed data through CDP in 2020, including more than 9,600 companies worth over 50% of global market capitalization, and over 940 cities, states and regions, representing a combined population of over 2.6 billion. Fully TCFD aligned, CDP holds the largest environmental database in the world, and CDP scores are widely used to drive investment and procurement decisions towards a zero carbon, sustainable and resilient economy. CDP is a founding member of the Science Based Targets initiative, We Mean Business Coalition, The Investor Agenda and the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative.

Visit cdp.net or follow us @CDP to find out more.

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