When it comes to investing in a sustainable future, do we really have to pick between fossil fuels and renewable energy?

Well, yes. But many of the world’s top banking executives and directors haven’t gotten the memo. 

That’s what new analysis from Bloomberg suggests: entanglements with major emitters are surprisingly prevalent in the boardrooms of 20 major U.S. and European banks. 

And even if those banks have publicly announced significant climate commitments, they are also “the most active financiers” for non-renewable energy projects. 

The biggest banks, the authors noted, have backed big oil and gas companies with nearly $1.4 trillion in loans since the Paris Agreement was negotiated at the end of 2015.

Bloomberg’s report focused on these banks’ leadership, analyzing current and former professional affiliations for more than 600 bank executives and board members.

It found that at least 73 had once held positions with big corporate emitters around the globe, including fossil fuel companies, manufacturers, utilities, retailers, and other companies with sizable carbon footprints. 

In contrast, Bloomberg found only four connections between banks’ leadership and green energy companies.

It is true that several banks are slowly responding to activist shareholders who want banks to take more action on climate change and some (including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Citigroup) have promised not to invest in major fossil projects, but it's clear that the sustainable revolution hasn’t reached the top levels of the biggest U.S. and European banks.

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