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16 december 2019
On December 16, the results of the first Russian study on the application of responsible financing in the Russian banking sector were presented on Moscow Exchange by WWF-Russia, the European University at Saint Petersburg and the Analytical Center of the National Rating Agency.

"The banking sector is a traditionally conservative sector of the economy, however there are extremely dynamic changes happening around the world in terms of the orientation of financial products towards green development. As part of the study, we wanted to see how environmental and climate agendas are implemented within the Russian banking sector and whether responsible finance practices are a working business model," explains Mikhail Babenko, Director of Green Economy program at WWF-Russia. "In the last couple of years, there was a lot of discussions regarding green bonds, but the banking sector is an equally important mechanism in terms of financing climate and environmental projects, and it was important for us to look at existing practices in Russia." 

The study covers the banks with the largest equity, as well as the banks that had experience working with international financial institutions such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Finance Corporation. Overall it includes 22 participants. 

The data for the study was obtained in two stages: a desk study of reports and documents from open sources and a structured interview.  

According to the information received, the Russian banking sector is not yet sufficiently aware of green financing and its principles. Moreover, banks may even have experience in implementing classic green projects and not be aware of it.

The banks included in international financial groups have demonstrated some unexpected results: the policies and practices in the field of responsible financing and sustainable development that were adopted at the headquarters level in Russia are practically not applied – only one bank began the process of carrying international practices over to Russia. Green projects are either non-existent, are only considered by the European offices, or the training of employees has only just begun.

"The creation of green credit products by Russian banks and lending for energy efficiency projects in particular is not only a profitable area, but also a source of reliable data on the targeted use of funds, as well as on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. It is very important that we take this into account in regards to Russia's future obligations under the Paris Agreement," says Maxim Titov, Executive Director of ENERPO Research Center of the European University at St. Petersburg.

The study has also indirectly demonstrated the degree of openness of banks to interaction with interested parties. It is difficult to distinguish the least open category of banks, since 9 out of 22 of them did not participate in the interview or did not give any comments.

The two following strategies can be distinguished in the banking sector, based on the results of interviews and meetings at numerous conferences:

1) "why we DO NOT NEED standards and procedures in the realm of responsible financing"

2) "why we DO NEED standards and procedures in the realm of responsible financing"

According to the organizers of the study, it is obvious that the second strategy seems more attractive in a changing global world of finance in regards to long-term development and attracting foreign investors. 

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Chief project coordinator