Our award-winning reporting has moved

Context provides news and analysis on three of the world’s most critical issues:

climate change, the impact of technology on society, and inclusive economies.

OPINION: It's time to stop investing in the destruction of nature

by Hana Begovic | Earth Advocacy Youth
Friday, 6 November 2020 09:53 GMT

A burning tract of the Amazon jungle is seen near Apui, Amazonas State, Brazil, August 11, 2020. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Image Caption and Rights Information

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Some of the world’s biggest banks are using our money to fund ecocide across the planet - and that has to change


Hana Begovic is the director of Earth Advocacy Youth.

The destruction of nature is not something one invests in, right? Wrong.

New findings in the assessment report “Bankrolling Extinction” show that some of the world’s biggest banks are using our money to fund mass ecocide across the planet. Luckily, youth have the vision required to change the status quo.

 A dangerous narrative

The health of ecosystems and species populations around the world is deteriorating fast. This destruction has occurred in only 50 years, which demonstrates how quickly the preconditions for life on Earth can be jeopardized and have their sensitive balance compromised.

Today’s governance systems promote and enforce a dangerous narrative: ecosystems and non-human living beings are human-owned objects whose reason for existence is to be exploited and used for human benefit and economic profit.

Entrenched in the laws and policies that make our economies, this narrative permeates almost all spaces in which economic power is exercised.

 “Bankrolling Extinction” presents alarming findings that connect biodiversity loss to bank investments of over $2.6 trillion in industries like mining, overfishing, fossil fuels, deforestation, and transport.

This report confirms that influential stakeholders such as banks continue to reproduce and promote unsustainable patterns, feeding a destructive global economic machine and political landscape.

Meanwhile, the report shows none of the banks in the assessment have made sufficient efforts to change their imprudent policies and take responsibility for their injudicious actions.

Changing the rules

It is crucial that banks transform their policies. This is a sizeable but surmountable undertaking that requires a shift in our value systems and a shift in our governance systems.

First, how we perceive ourselves as humans in relation to the planetary web of life that we are intrinsically connected to must change, moving away from the idea that humans are separate from and superior to “nature”.

It is a highly problematic idea because it defies the natural laws that govern life on Earth. This, in turn, must be reflected in the governance of banks. Banks must rise to the challenge and reach out to knowledgeable actors in civil society or the private sector for consultation and advisory support to transform these policies.

Law must become a fierce protector of life, holding banks to a high standard of scrutiny and accountability.

Climate litigation is on the rise and stripping big banks of their excuses. We need to see the same type of litigation to address the ecological crises and legislators must advance the law in order to meet the growing needs of today’s reality.

We need a transformation in banking policy, governance, and legal systems to hold banks to account. If account holders come together to demand this, they have a lot of power. In fact, more people and foundations are choosing to move their money out of financial institutions that fund biodiversity loss and climate change.

 Rethink and redo

Banks alone will not solve the ecological crises. Rethinking the economic, legal, and governance structures that banks exist within is necessary to enable a new paradigm to take hold. Nevertheless, it is evident that banks play a key role in the global economic system that is heavily compromising the delicate balance of the Earth.

Meanwhile, banks are currently protected from any consequences of their recklessness through regulators and rules. But what are banks? They are financial institutions where customers - that’s us - can save or borrow money, and where that money is invested by the banks to build up money reserves.

You and I as citizens should have a say in how our money is invested, and a right to stop banks from causing serious harm to life on this planet. We can no longer allow banks to gamble with our future.

Global co-operation is needed to transform the global narrative that positions humans as separate to the world of which they are part. Focusing on changing the financial system is a crucial part of this shift and one with the potential to ripple out to the rest of economy and society and help promote change elsewhere.

As Go Fossil Free urges in its divestment report: “the power of collective personal action cannot be underestimated.”

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.