AIB has ‘blacklist’ for companies that won’t address climate change

Chief tells tourism conference it will ‘turn away’ firms that don’t try to reduce emissions

AIB's chief executive, Colin Hunt, says it has an "expanding blacklist" of companies with which it refuses to do business because, he claimed, they were not "serious" about reducing their carbon emissions. Mr Hunt told a conference in Dublin on Wednesday that it would "turn away" business from such companies.

“We have a growing and expanding blacklist,” said Mr Hunt at the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation’s (Itic) annual conference, which the bank sponsored. “If a business is serious about reducing carbon emissions, we will support it. But we will not support businesses that are not serious.”

Mr Hunt, who was interviewed onstage on the topic of sustainability by conference host and journalist Dearbhail McDonald, said regulations requiring it to consider the carbon footprint of its customers would create a "welcome burden" for AIB.

The bank’s chief executive said when he went to meet existing or potential institutional shareholders, the issue of carbon targets was now an important question, whereas “three years ago it was a tick-the-box question”.

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He said businesses that take climate change seriously would in future get a “benefit” in terms of their financing. He said companies that became known for not taking climate change seriously could face “sanction” and would find it “increasingly difficult to get capital”. Even if they do find bank funding, he suggested, they would find it was more expensive.

‘Excluded activities’ list

When asked afterwards to clarify Mr Hunt’s comments about an AIB “blacklist”, including how many companies are on the list and in which sectors, AIB responded that its chief executive was referring to its “excluded activities” list. This list was compiled in July 2020 and can be found on the bank’s website.

The “excluded activities” list does not name any specific companies, but the bank says it applies to companies that have a banking exposure greater than €300,000.

The list “prohibits providing new money for term lending to businesses, or any of their subsidiaries, involved in” a range of activities. These include oil or coal exploration, nuclear power generation or nuclear waste transportation, gas fracking, processing animal furs, companies involved in “animal fights for entertainment”, dynamiting fish, deforestation, and also online pornography. The list is maintained as part of the bank’s credit risk policy.

Mr Hunt further expanded on the theme of sustainability at the Itic event, suggesting that if major companies don’t “seriously address” the issue of climate change in the next three years, the chances of preventing catastrophic climate change would be much lower.

“The clock is against us,” he said. Mr Hunt also acknowledged that lending for green projects was a “massive opportunity” for the bank.

Mark Paul

Mark Paul

Mark Paul is Business Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Caveat column