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Nancy Feig
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Going Green: Two Financial Giants Take Steps to Minimize Their Colossal Footprints

By Nancy Feig

By Nancy FeigThe other day, prompted by all of the recent press on global warming, earth day, and Al Gore, I took a test to measure by "carbon footprint."

A carbon footprint, according to carbonfootprint.org, is "a measure of the impact human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of green house gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide."

Considering the fact that I don't own a car, live in a small apartment, drink tap water and use energy-saving light bulbs, my carbon footprint is relatively small, but not as small as I would have expected. I still use plenty of paper at work, fly a few times a year and take pretty hot showers.

It turns out some of the largest banks are also considering their impact on the environment. In the past few weeks, Citi has made two announcements about how it plans to go green in the coming years. Last week, Citi ($1.88 trillion in assets) unveiled a 10-year plan aimed at making its organization more green and offsetting its own large carbon footprint.

More recently, New York-based Citi also announced that it is committing $1 billion to the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI), a project of the Clinton Foundation, to implement the new Energy Efficiency Building Retrofit Program in partnership with large city governments.

Citi will provide expertise and financing for the first generation of projects in CCI's landmark program aimed at significantly reducing energy use in public and private buildings, which are responsible for between 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in most cities and over 70 percent in large cities, including New York.

Back in March, Charlotte-based Bank of America announced a $20 billion initiative to support the growth of environmentally sustainable business activity to address global climate change. Like Citi, the Bank of America's 10-year initiative encourages development of environmentally sustainable business practices through lending, investing, philanthropy and the creation of new products and services.

What about other banks? Will going green being a competitive necessity in the coming years? Already banks are looking for ways to save in energy costs related to the data center. But let's be real, that's to save money and space, not necessarily the most altruistic of reasons.

Let's hope these banks have set the bar for the rest of the industry. While they are certainly not the first ito institue green iniatives - smaller banks have been building green branches for years - their visability will bring much needed publicity to the cause. Because for all the bus rides I can take, I certainly can't do as much to save the environment as those large powerhouses can.

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