They look to be straight out of Star Trek's Enterprise, but Citigroup's telepresence centers bring executives from Hong Kong, London, New York and Mexico face to face at a moment's notice, and helped the bank reduce carbon emissions from business air travel by 31 percent from 2008 to 2009.
That's an impressive number, and a small part of why Citi topped the Money Center category in BTN's first ranking of America's Greenest Banks.
The ranking recognizes that just as there are endless shades of green, sustainability policies and programs can be measured many ways: Carbon footprints, energy costs, paper recycled or bills not sent, telecommuting hours supported, environmental practices of portfolio companies.
For banks, "green" efforts can be sorted into three buckets: the companies they lend and grant credit to, the types of products they offer retail customers, and their internal operations and technology initiatives.
It's fair, and gratifying, to say that all three of these buckets have grown substantially over the past decade. Many banks have signed The Equator Principles and The Carbon Principles, which set project finance and lending standards based on environmental sustainability. Many in the industry have created "green" accounts that emphasize electronic document delivery. And with an intense focus on efficiency, banks have undertaken a variety of energy conservation projects, from virtualization to alternative energy. At most banks, even the Great Recession hasn't taken their eyes off the ball of environmental sustainability. "The banking sector was moving very aggressively towards a sustainability-focused strategy prior to the global recession," says Chris Park, national practice leader for Deloitte's sustainability practice. "What's happened is not so much a change in focus, but a change in visibility."
With this issue, and marking the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, BTN expands its monthly "Going Green" section to recognize "America's Greenest Banks." The aim is to give due recognition to the banks that are pace-setters in their peer group when it comes to environmentally responsible technology and operations initiatives. This year they are: Citigroup, Bank of America, Johnson Financial Group, First National Bank of Omaha, New Resource Bank and 3rd Federal. On the following pages you'll find the highlights of each bank's "green" story, and hopefully inspiration to write your own.
The ranking began with a national call for entries in which banks voluntary outlined their environmental initiatives. This data was supplemented (when available) with research from risk management consultancy Risk Metrics. BTN's selection criteria focused narrowly on sustainability initiatives driven by banks' technology and operations divisions with measurable ROI and sustainability metrics.