New research from TowerGroup finds although the impact of financial institutions on the environment isn't as substantial as that of the coal, automotive, and chemical industries, the financial industry does have a role to play that is larger than its own carbon footprint.
The author of the report, analyst Inci Kaya, finds that sustainability initiatives - which include both environmentally friendly and socially-responsible actions - are growing as a market force among financial services institutions in the United States.
Emerging demand from customers and employees is helping push financial institutions to forge a strategy around incorporating products and services that are environmentally friendly. However, because the regulatory environment is still immature, there is currently no comprehensive or single blueprint for institutions or their suppliers to follow.
A number of leading financial institutions have already adopted some sustainability measures. These initiatives range from sourcing power from "green" suppliers or affiliating themselves with associations such as the US Green Build Council, to offering "green-friendly" products to the marketplace (which includes a growing push to reduce paper statements and increase online account access by customers). A chart which toplines the sustainable initiatives of several leading institutions can be downloaded.
Inside the financial institution, sustainability initiatives must be shaped around key internal dynamics (such as corporate culture), operational processes (such as recycling and telecommuting) and image / marketing (such as the "branding" of sustainable initiatives). As these efforts broaden and deepen, the sustainable financial services enterprise must also address and engage three external constituencies: suppliers; regulators; and customers.