It may seem odd that a bank is saying environmental stewardship does not come at the expense of jobs, yet Bank of America is making that exact case.
According to a report the financial services giant released this week, the $12.6 billion its various business units invested from 2013 to last year supported almost 40,000 jobs, contributed almost $15 billion to GDP and generated close to $30 billion in total economic output.
Those investments comprise just a small part of what Bank of America says will be a long-term total of $125 billion total in what it describes as an “environmental business commitment.”
The majority of these jobs, or over 50 percent in total, are within the broader energy efficiency industry, and include employment linked to building retrofits or more efficient lighting installations. More than 40 percent of these newly-created jobs lie within the clean energy sector, including wind power, solar and other renewable power technologies. The rest of the jobs, approximately 6 percent, are within the nascent electric vehicles industry.
Bank of America’s statistics should catch the eye of local leaders who often seek economic development by tactics such as building big box stores or distribution centers – and count the resulting low-wage, part-time employment as “jobs.” Citing data from EY, the bank claims that its investments have led to jobs in the clean energy sector that on average pay over $80,000 a year. Jobs in the energy efficiency sector on average pay significantly less, or just over $57,000 a year – but that is not shabby when considering that average compensation in the U.S. hovers around $57,700 annually.
These projects and resulting jobs also have their environmental benefits, of course. Bank of America claims that its recent investments have helped prevent almost 2.4 million metric tons of emissions last year – the equivalent of removing over 500,000 cars off the road for one year.
One of the projects Bank of America highlights is in Minnesota. The bank recently partnered with D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments (DESRI), a 30-year-old global investment and technology development firm with over $42 billion in capital investments. The outcome was a $110 million tax equity investment that helped financed North Star Solar Project, a 100-megawatt utility-scale solar power installation. Touted as the largest solar power project in the Midwest, its 400,000 photovoltaic modules generate enough clean power to electrify approximately 20,000 homes annually. Local news reports said during its construction, the project kept 300 construction workers employed. Since its launch this year, a division of DESRI, which has over 1,300 employees, will manage the day-to-day operation of the installation.
In concluding its report, Bank of America offers a conclusion that could be taken as a swipe at the current White House:
“The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement represented a commitment from countries and companies alike to make that happen — understanding it would take tens of trillions of dollars in financing to make that transition a success.”
The Trump White House may have reaffirmed its plan to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, but the private sector has had made it clear that it is business as usual – and investors, such as Bank of America, will even make a profit off of balancing profits with sustainable development.
Image credit: D. E. Shaw Renewable Investments