While banks in Lithuania boast of scooter-riding CEOs, their sustainability record tells a different tale. A consumer group's investigation suggests there's much room for improvement.
The Lithuanian Consumers Alliance (Vartotojų Aljansas) has looked at how sincere Lithuania's six commercial banks are when they boast about their green practices. The report assessed the environmental impact of their practices, as well as their workers' rights and gender equality.
Kęstutis Kupšys, vice president of the Consumers Alliance, says the results are underwhelming and, for environmentally-conscious clients, the choice is between “bad and worse”.
“[One bank says] look how sustainable we are, we're talking about it inside our bank, our head is commuting to work on a scooter. Well, I've looked at some data from this bank and I find that they've invested 20 billion dollars into polluting businesses, into oil and extraction,” Kupšys says.
The report assessed the six banks on a 10-point scale. Swedbank leads the ranking with 6.24 points, followed by SEB with 5.76 points. Next is Šiaulių Bankas, which only got 0.36 points and Luminor scored a meagre 0.14. The two other banks, Medicinos Bankas and Citadele, do not give any public information about sustainability at all.
According to Kupšys, banking plays a crucial role in green transition, since they direct financial resources to firms and sectors. While some claim to support sustainable development, they should direct investment away from fossil fuel industries and companies exploiting their workers.
“Public talking about how green and sustainable we are must be matched by real action, lending,” Kupšys says.
Eivilė Čipkutė, president of the Lithuanian Banking Association, says that the sustainability report is an important guideline, as banks seek to give more loans to environmentally-friendly projects.
However, she adds, that is not always easy.
“Going in the direction of sustainability happens hand in hand with the economy as a whole. The more sustainable the economy, the more sustainable the businesses, the more opportunities for banks to finance sustainable projects,” Čipkutė says.
Moreover, it is not always easy to assess the environmental impact of a project from the information submitted by businesses.
“It all comes down to data, and it's one of the directions we're working towards,” Čipkutė says. “We're going to talk to institutions about what kind of data we'll need in order to evaluate how sustainable a business is.”