Mariuz Calvet is Head of Sustainability and Responsible Investment in Grupo Financiero Banorte in Mexico. She was part of the founding group of the Principles for Responsible Banking and is part of the LATAM Committee of the Principles for Responsible Investment.

 “The banking industry will be a key actor in how the world economy can be stimulated into a green recovery, enabling a systemic, sustainable and inclusive recovery.”

Business as usual was no longer an option for the banking sector. The role of the financial sector in a transition to an inclusive society, to a low-carbon economy and a nature-positive economy demanded a shift in the way that banks do business. 

In September 2019, the new Principles for Responsible Banking were launched by a group of banks empowered, and accompanied, by the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP-FI). 

The main goal of this new framework is to redefine the role of banks as allies of nature and society. Today, more than 180 banks, representing more than a third of the global baking industry, have made the commitment to align their businesses and strategies to contribute to people and society’s goals – to the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement, as well as local and regional development goals. 

To ensure the level of ambition and commitment that is so urgently needed in these challenging times, this new framework sets out six Principles that help the banking industry truly embed sustainability across all business levels: the strategic, portfolio and transactional levels. They establish ambitious targets, governance structures and transparency. 

Just months after the Principles for Responsible Banking launch, the world started to look very different. Signatories around the world are playing a crucial role in supporting societies through the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, while also facing pressing challenges themselves. They have been taking extraordinary measures to support their employees, clients, customers, governments and communities. 

After addressing the initial crisis management and economic impact, banks will be key actors in how the world economy can be stimulated into a green recovery, in enabling a systemic, sustainable and inclusive recovery. A proactive role from finance is needed to facilitate the community of stakeholders through the large networks that banks have; to tackle nature and biodiversity loss, social inequality and small business recovery through connections and partnerships, expertise, innovation, technology and digitalisation. 

Mexico´s financial system has also risen to the challenge of defining the role of banks as the engine of sustainable development. In a mega-biodiverse country, with 182 natural protected areas, biosphere reserves, sanctuaries and natural parks covering 90 million hectares, the Mexican Banking Association launched in 2014 a Sustainability Protocol expressing the commitment of member banks to sustainable practices in their business and operations. The Mexican Central Bank has also been a champion in the promotion of green finance and the integration of environmental and climate risks in the Mexican financial system. 

Worldwide, we will witness the adaptability and transformation of banks. A very positive “global knowledge exchange” of best practices in the banking sector around the world has emerged, where the possibilities of every bank to contribute to society and nature, while navigating the crisis, is a reality.

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Read the Living Planet Report 2020