by Larry Powell
I certainly didn't - turns out, I was wrong!
Ethical Funds lists Scotiabank, the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and Suncor Energy among its top ten holdings. The investment company adds, RBC, for one, "provides significant capital to the oil and gas and other smokestack industries."
Suncor describes itself as a "pioneer" and one of the biggest players in the development and upgrading of the Alberta oil sands. So far this year, the company has been producing, on average, more than a-quarter-of-a-million barrels of oil per day.
In a letter to RAN about a year ago, RBC confirmed it was "a financier of oil sands activity, although, at almost $17 billion, (correct) not currently the largest."
Meanwhile, millions of hectares of pristine boreal forest are being bulldozed to make way for more and more tar sands plants. According to Greenpeace, this could soon amount to an area twice the size of New Brunswick!
Fish with large lesion caught in the Athabasca watershed.
As he puts it, "Every major bank in Canada has exposure to oil sands."
Ethical Funds lists "respect for the environment" and a pledge that "disadvantaged communities should not bear the brunt of adverse environmental impacts" among its "core values."
In Walker's words, "Note that we do not describe the companies in our Funds as ‘ethical’. This is not our claim."
Walker recognizes that the companies in question have a chequered reputation in managing their social and environmental responsibilities. But he says his industry is constantly "engaging" and "pressuring" them to do better. It even hands out and publishes report cards on their performances in this regard. All this, he believes, will gradually help convince them to change their ways.
Walker believes banks like RBC can play "a pivotal role in encouraging their clients to tackle climate change."
He concludes, "We are at least partially responsible for progress that banks like RBC are making in this space."
In its defense, RBC does sponsor the "Blue Water Project," through which it promises millions of dollars to help protect watersheds and ensure access to clean drinking water. It's doubtful, however, any of that money has gone toward protecting the Athabasca watershed, the deterioration of which the bank has surely played a part, albeit indirect.
So is the Blue Water Project an example of the bank's good intentions? Or hypocrisy?
If tar sands investment can be considered "ethical," I find it rather hard to imagine what would not!
If you believe, as I do, that our investment money should be going to less harmful and less polluting ventures than this, I'd urge you to do something about it, also.
As a result of all of this, I have chosen to shift my modest investments away from those involving the tar sands and, into less harmful ventures.
I'd invite you to consider something similar!
Please also read: "Is Fracking Appropriate for Ethical Investing?"