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Fifth Third’s Next Chapter: From Commitment to Impact

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Fifth Third Bank, one of Ohio’s leading financial institutions, has long been working toward a sustainable future. Since 2012, it has been the source of about $4 billion in lending and capital raising for renewable energy projects, contributing to 3.5 GW of completed projects for over 50 clients. Back in 2017, the bank announced internal progress with five operational goals to be achieved by 2022, three of which it has already met: switching to 100 percent renewable power, cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent, and lowering its water usage by 20 percent. Now, the Cincinnati-based company is taking its sustainability strategy one step further by joining the Ceres Company Network. 

Ceres is a nonprofit organization that encourages and helps companies and investors to adopt ESG practices and mobilizes them to support sustainable policies; the ultimate purpose is to “transform the economy to build a sustainable future for people and the planet.” The Ceres Company Network consists of 60 companies, almost three-quarters of which are in the Fortune 500. Among the most well-known members are Amazon, Apple, Bank of America, JP Morgan, Ford, General Motors, Coca-Cola, and Target. By spurring change among such vital participants in the domestic and global economies, Ceres seeks to deliver the “maximum positive impact” for the economy and environment alike. 

Before they are approved as members of the Company Network, though, organizations must meet certain requirements because “making the commitment to join Ceres demonstrates a company understands the positive value of a sustainable business strategy and is actively aligning its actions with that value.” 

  1. The company’s executives must publicly commit to improving performance on environmental and social fronts. 
  2. The company must regularly and publicly disclose its sustainability goals, strategies, and performance. 
  3. The company must regularly and substantively engage with “investors, environmental and social advocates, and other key stakeholders,” and explain clearly how it will contemplate and incorporate feedback from those stakeholders. 
  4. The company must continuously improve its sustainability performance and its sustainability disclosure. 

Fifth Third Bank certainly lives up to these requirements. In 2020, the bank was repeatedly recognized for its sustainable efforts. It was one of the winners of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s twentieth annual Green Power Leadership Awards after achieving 100 percent renewable energy via the 80-Megawatt Aulander Holloman Solar Facility in North Carolina. This made it the first Fortune 500 company and first bank to achieve 100 percent renewable energy via one solar project and one power purchase agreement. Fifth Third Bank was also given an A- Climate Leadership Score from CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), ranking in the top quartile of financial institutions. 

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The latest of Fifth Third’s impressive feats came this year when it became carbon neutral across its operations – including Scope 1, Scope 2, and business travel within Scope 3 – by purchasing renewable power and carbon offsets in addition to reducing its carbon footprint. Greg D. Carmichael, Chairman and CEO reflected that “becoming the first regional U.S. based commercial bank to achieve carbon neutrality demonstrates Fifth Third’s unequivocal commitment to environmental sustainability leadership.” 

Additionally, Fifth Third has indicated that it will bring this same progress to its client portfolios by joining the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials (PCAF), a consortium of more than 100 other financial institutions aiming for consistent measurement and disclosure of emissions. ” 

Reporting on these steps is set to be one of Fifth Third’s regular practices. It published its first Environmental, Social, and Governance Report in October 2020 to “share our progress in delivering sustainable value for our stakeholders,” Carmichael said. 

And, it joined multiple well-recognized ESG reporting frameworks over the course of the last two years: in 2020, Fifth Third was the first U.S.-based commercial bank to join the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) Alliance and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Community. It also published a Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) Index in 2019, became a TCFD supporter in 2020, and has incorporated its recommendations into multiple disclosure materials

As a member of the Ceres Company Network, Fifth Third Bank can now expect ongoing engagement with Ceres. The nonprofit will help the bank to take full advantage of – and will provide an annual performance assessment based on – the Ceres Roadmap 2030, a decade-long action plan which provides recommendations for achieving sustainability goals and general success throughout the global transition. 

Carmichael stated in a press release that  “joining the Ceres Company Network is another major step forward in our commitment to lead among regional banks in transitioning to a more sustainable future. It will be a privilege to work with many of the world’s most sustainable companies as we tackle the problems we face, and, together, work to fully realize the potential we have to positively impact our planet and its people.” And Ceres in turn guarantees that it will help the bank move “from commitment to impact. From words to results.” 

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