Sustainable Finance

Finance and Banking

The finance and banking sector plays a vital role in the world’s economy. While the world gross domestic product was valued by the IMF at $87.5 trillion in 2018, the value of shares trading on stock exchanges was $77.6 trillion, accounting for 88.6% of the total amount of goods and services provided around the world. These numbers demonstrate that the finance and banking sector has substantial leverage over the global economy and is key for ensuring corporate respect for human rights.

Finance and banking institutions can cause, contribute, to or be directly linked to adverse human rights impacts. Examples of adverse impacts linked to the sector include a pension fund investing in private prisons that employ forced prison labor, investing in food and beverage companies that systematically buy produce from farms using child labor, or investing in companies that sources conflict minerals. Financial institutions may also contribute to human rights abuses by lending money to agricultural companies involved in land grabs, for example, or by funding infrastructure projects that displace Indigenous populations.

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidance on Responsible Business Conduct for Institutional Investors call on businesses and institutional investors alike to ensure that, at a minimum, their activities respect the rights contained in the International Bill of Rights and the ILO Core Conventions. Where financial institutions, public or private, may impact people, they should uphold their human rights responsibilities by conducting human rights due diligence, including by adopting relevant company policies and processes. This responsibility extends to international development financing organizations such as the World Bank Group, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Investment Bank (EIB), and investment funds operated by national governments.

Given the intersection between this sector and our membership, the Investor Alliance is leading a number of corporate engagement efforts regarding human rights due diligence in the financial sector. These activities and key resources include:

To become involved in the Investor Alliance efforts on finance and banking, or to learn more, please contact Sara Blackwell at sblackwell@iccr.org