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Andrew Burger headshot

Citigroup Launches $100 Billion Sustainability Drive


America's largest banking groups are increasingly incorporating environmental and social considerations into lending and investment practices. They are also bringing sustainability in-house, launching initiatives to make greater use of clean energy, enhance resource efficiency, and reduce waste and pollution.

On Feb. 18, Citigroup made a landmark commitment to finance sustainable development across its worldwide business footprint. Management announced the group would “lend, invest and facilitate a total of $100 billion within the next 10 years to finance activities that reduce climate change and create environmental solutions that benefit people and communities.”

Investing in projects that make cities less polluting and resource-intensive, and hence improve quality of life, are focal points of Citi's sustainability-driven business strategy. “As part of a commitment to helping cities thrive during this period of unprecedented urban transformation, Citi will seek to finance and support activities that enable communities to adapt to climate change impacts," Citi management stated in a press release. They went on to say that the company would "directly finance infrastructure improvements that increase access to clean water and manage waste, while also supporting green, affordable housing for clients, including in low- and moderate-income communities."

Financing sustainable growth

Employing over 300,000 people across a global network that spans some 140 countries, Citigroup's $1.8-plus trillion of assets makes it one of the largest banking and financial services groups in the world. With this latest announcement, Citi is renewing its commitment to finance sustainable development.

Back in 2007, Citigroup management announced a goal of facilitating $50 billion in sustainable development initiatives by 2016. The company reached that goal three years ahead of schedule, Citi highlighted.

In its new $100 billion commitment, Citi aims to facilitate financing of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Management says staff company-wide will work with clients “to identify opportunities to finance greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions and resource efficiency in other sectors, such as sustainable transportation.” Citi has demonstrated its deep commitment to not only take environmental consequences into account, but also find innovative ways to finance projects that lead to sustainable growth.

Commenting on its latest sustainability finance and investment drive, CEO Michael Corbat highlighted Citi's longstanding commitment to helping realize transformative, beneficial change:

"For more than 200 years, Citi's mission has been to enable progress by facilitating economic growth and financing transformative projects. The core mission hasn't changed, but the way we approach it has. Incorporating the principles of sustainability into everything we do improves our own operations, enhances our clients' work and contributes to a better world."

James Alexander, who heads up the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group's Finance and Economic Development Initiative, zoomed in how Citi's commitment will strengthen C40's efforts to reduce carbon emissions and enhance resiliency to climate change in cities worldwide. The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group is a network of the world's biggest cities working to become more sustainable.
"Reducing carbon emissions and becoming more climate resilient is a key priority and major challenge for the world's megacities and their business communities," Alexander said. “C40's ongoing partnership with Citi is helping global cities overcome their climate finance challenges. Today's announcement from Citi will add further opportunities to help cities achieve their climate targets, and allow businesses to become more sustainable."

Citi's in-house investments

Making investments that reduce carbon emissions and waste, enhance energy efficiency, and make use of renewable energy are part of Citi's five-year strategy of focusing on environmental and social risk management. Guiding its strategy, the company set new environmental footprint goals that it aims to meet by the end of the decade. With 2005 as a baseline reference, these include:

  • Reducing its own GHG emissions by 35 percent

  • Realizing 30 percent reductions in energy and water use

  • Reducing waste by 60 percent

In the longer term, Citigroup will employ a "climate science-based methodology” as it aims to reduce its own GHG emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Zooming in on its investment portfolio, Citi aims to have 33 percent of its real estate portfolio LEED certified. In addition, the banking and financial services group will seek to obtain LEED Platinum certification for its new global headquarters at 388/390 Greenwich St. in lower Manhattan.

Citi met its previous five-year internal GHG and waste reduction goals two years early in 2013, management highlighted. In doing so, the company reduced GHG emissions by 25 percent and the amount of waste sent to landfills by 41 percent as compared to 2005. Furthermore, it's on track to meet its 2015 goals for water use reduction (a 20 percent decrease). Additionally, the properties in its real estate portfolio are 20 percent more energy efficient, and 15 percent achieve LEED certification.

Commenting on Citi's performance to date, Mindy Lubber, president of nonprofit sustainability group Ceres, said: "Climate change is expected to impact virtually every sector of the economy.

“The financial services industry has a big role to play in scaling up global clean energy investments, and we applaud Citi's leadership as the company continues to innovate and expand its efforts."

Ceres was among a group of external parties and stakeholders that provided input and feedback as Citi formulated its sustainability goals and business strategy.

*Image credits: Citigroup

Andrew Burger headshotAndrew Burger

An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.

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