German financial service providers in spotlight – The impact of the UNEP FI Declaration

Traders studying computer screens

In May 1992, in the run-up to the World Summit in Rio de Janeiro, a small group of banks committed itself to the financial sector's responsibility for the environment. The UNEP Financial Initiative (UNEP FI) emerged from this group with the inclusion of insurance companies. The UNEP FI Declaration soon became an industry-wide standard for environmentally committed financial service providers and now has over 300 signatories. Nevertheless, the weakness of the initiative soon became apparent: Anybody was allowed to adorn themselves with the label of a UNEP FI signatory. There was no mechanism which could have monitored adherence to the word or meaning of the UNEP FI Declaration. Some of the German signatories were therefore repeatedly criticised that words were not followed by deeds.

The plan described was intended to clarify and analyse the environmentally-relevant activities of the German UNEP FI signatories. At the same time, ways were revealed how the institutions affiliated with the UNEP-FI could be better supported in the future. The investigation also showed that the number of "freeloaders" had already significantly dropped as a result of the UNEP FI’s efforts and internal restructuring. The environmental performance of the German members was very high overall, even though there were still some problematic institutions. Whereas the integration of environmental aspects had made good progress in numerous business areas, integration was least well developed for the banks’ products themselves.

Publications of this project

  • Auswirkungen der UNEP-Erklärung der Finanzinstitute zu Umwelt und nachhaltiger Entwicklung

    Klumb, Jan; David Bothe, Walter Kahlenborn und Katrin Seifert 2005: Auswirkungen der UNEP-Erklärung der Finanzinstitute zu Umwelt und nachhaltiger Entwicklung. Berlin: adelphi.