Bank of America, the biggest bank in the U.S and one of the culprits behind the recent mortgage crisis, wants to prove that it does good deeds, too. That's why the bank released its first corporate social responsibility report this week—a document that covers everything from philanthropy and environmental initiatives to small business lending.
Much of the information isn't exactly new. "We've had a lot of information out in the marketplace. But given the increased focus on transparency and accountability, it was a really important time for us to aggregate a lot of the info we have been reporting on and add some additional context and put it all out in this first CSR report," explains Alex Liftman, global environmental executive of Bank of America.
Bank of America has some impressive statistics to report. The company has invested $13 billion towards solar and environmental projects—part of a $20 billion, 10-year environmental business initiative launched in 2007. "We do a lot of work in commercial development, lending for commercial development on new construction that is LEED certified, lending and investment in energy efficient retrofits, and a lot of work in the renewables area," says Liftman.
Last month, the bank announced that it is financing the biggest distributed rooftop solar project in the world. And according to the report, Bank of America has soared past its goal to reduce CO2 emissions by 9% between 2004 to 2009, reducing emissions by 18% compared to the baseline. The new goal: reducing emissions by another 15% by 2014.
The company isn't just doing this to curry good will; it makes good business sense, too. "We are really committed as an organization to address climate change and to lower our own impact on the environment around us, but the reality is that it's a huge business opportunity for the bank," says Liftman. "If you look at some of the numbers, cleantech has become the number one area for venture capital investing. It's now equal to software. And if you look at 2009 to 2010, investments increased 30% to $250 billion in a heavily recessionary economy."
Bank of America has some notable employee-side initiatives, too. The company offers employees, for example, $3,000 towards the purchase of an electric, hybrid, or compressed natural gas car. So far, 4,400 employees have taken advantage of the program.
Corporate social responsibility doesn't just mean cutting carbon. The company's environmental initiatives are impressive, but we can't forget when the bank helped drive the country to the brink of economic disaster.
The report does address some of the steps Bank of America is taking to prevent another mortgage crisis. This includes the introduction of a new loan modification program, as well as necessary preparations for upcoming U.S. mortgage industry reforms. Will these changes cut down on further financial damage and help people with bad mortgages held by the bank? We'll see. In the meantime, Bank of America, keep subsidizing those electric cars.
[Image: Flickr user wonderlane]