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Rediff News  All News  » Business » It's time for 'green' banking

It's time for 'green' banking

May 21, 2010 10:24 IST

Last December, IndusInd Bank inaugurated Mumbai's first solar-powered ATM as part of its "Green Office Project" campaign titled "Hum aur Hariyali".

With the solar-powered ATM, the bank expects to save around 1,980 Kw of energy annually besides reducing carbon emissions by 1,942 kg. It also expects to save power bills of around Rs 20,000 per year in urban areas, where it replaces diesel generators with solar panels.

In a bid to reduce the carbon footprint, Romesh Sobti, MD & CEO of IndusInd Bank, who describes "green banking" as his mission, has also introduced thin computing (which reduces the need for many personal computers), e-archiving, e-learning, e-waste management, paperless fax, energy conservation, CNG cars and supporting finance programmes with incentives to go green.

IndusInd Bank is just one of the several leading Indian banks with similar plans. "There is already a group of leading banks in India that recognise the importance of their role and the commercial advantage this will give them," says Emily Farnworth, senior advisor on the finance sector to The Climate Group, which acts as secretariat to signatories of the Climate Principles.

For instance, the State Bank of India (SBI), as part of its green banking policy, plans to set up captive windmills to generate 15 Mw of power in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

A new study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) commissioned by the Indian Banks' Association (IBA) and The Climate Group confirms that India's leading banks are recognising and seizing opportunities in an emerging low-carbon economy.

Says Farnworth, "Seven out of the eight banks in the survey believe commercial lending banks in India can play a leadership role in the business community in addressing the challenges of climate change." "They are starting to invest in low-carbon technologies and develop new products and services that will address the risks and opportunities of climate change," she added.

For instance, in coal technologies, ICICI Bank introduced innovative concepts like deep beneficiation of coal (coal washeries) and coal bed methane. It also assisted a company develop a product that provides an eco-friendly air-conditioning alternative to conventional air conditioners (ACs).

ICICI Bank also initiated a programme to sensitise corporate bodies, institutions, banks and government agencies involved in project planning on issues like biodiversity, wildlife habitats and environmental laws.

Energy efficiency is another key focus of banks, with an estimated market worth more than $15 billion by 2015 in India. IDBI Bank, for instance, has an exclusive team working on clean development mechanism (CDM) advisory services. It also implemented a refinance scheme for energy saving projects for micro, small and medium enterprises sector.

Yes Bank, too, is incorporating community development initiatives such as clean and green drives, energy efficiency practices, workplace health and safety and the development of local disaster management plans through its "Yes Community" initiatives.

ABN AMRO (Royal Bank of Scotland) launched the Indian Sustainable Development Fund, opening up a new emerging market for socially-responsible investors, while the "Equator Principles" serve as a backbone for Citi's broader Environmental and Social Risk Management (ESRM) policy, which extends beyond project finance.

The climate change agenda is primarily driven by top management, points out Prashant Vikram Singh, Executive Director, PwC. However, public sector banks are less involved in voluntary initiatives and appear to be postponing action until regulation is in place.

There are exceptions, though. The new Green Home Loan Scheme from SBI, for instance, will support environmentally-friendly residential projects and offer various concessions. These loans will be sanctioned for projects rated by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) and offer several financial benefits - a 5 per cent concession in margin, 0.25 per cent concession in interest rate and processing fee waiver.

K Unnikrishnan, deputy chief executive of IBA, concludes "...Correct policy incentives are essential to help banks take the next steps but banks need to proactively engage with the government".

Leslie D''Monte in Mumbai