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Is India ‘banking’ for a greener future?

Researcher in the Department of Geography at the University of Leicester is investigating the reasons why Indian banks have yet to commit to the Equator Principles; a set of environmental and social guidelines to which 62 banks and financial institutions worldwide have become signatories.

As part of her doctoral studies, Sophie Hadfield-Hill conducted forty interviews with CEOs and senior management of Indian banks and leading companies to explore the extent to which India’s corporate sector is following the ‘green’ agenda.

Sophie said: ‘There is certainly a lack of awareness of the Equator Principles in India. Leading banks are vaguely conscious of the guidelines, however, the public sector is waiting to be led by the Reserve Bank of India and the private sector banks seem to only want to commit if there is regulation or financial incentive.’ Current signatories such as Barclays and HSBC committed to the guidelines on a voluntary basis..

Sophie said: Indian banks are yet to declare their commitment to environmentally and socially responsible business, due to lack of interest from the Indian consumer.

Work needs to be done to make the guidelines more relevant to emerging economies. Firstly, however, Indian banks need to be made fully aware of the environmental and social guidelines to which banks worldwide are agreeing to.

‘As a researcher who has now interviewed the senior management of the majority of India’s leading banks, I feel I have helped to raise awareness of environmental and social issues among the Indian banking sector.’

If Indian banks do not become signatories, this will result in huge financial burden for banks committing to environmental and social guidelines. However, as Sophie added: ‘If Indian banks are to penetrate western markets and participate more in the global economy, it is important that they recognise their responsibilities as global corporate citizens.’

Sophie concluded: ‘Banks in India have significant influence over the safeguarding of fragile social groups and environments in Asia. At this time they must seriously consider their attitudes towards responsible lending both nationally and globally.’

Sophie Hadfield-Hill is currently a PhD student at the University of Leicester, conducting research into the ‘greening’ of leading companies and financial institutions in India. Her research stems from an interest into issues of environmental and social justice and the role that corporates can play in sustainable development.

The research is being presented to the public at the University of Leicester on Thursday 26th June. The Festival of Postgraduate Research introduces employers and the public to the next generation of innovators and cutting-edge researchers, and gives postgraduate researchers the opportunity to explain the real world implications of their research to a wide ranging audience.

Ather Mirza | alfa
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