The impact of the Equator Principles on the industry's environmental and social performance
The Equator Principles (EP) is a risk management framework, adopted by financial institutions, for determining, assessing and managing environmental and social risk. EP applies globally to all industry sectors and covers project finance and various forms of lending. Currently, 79 financial institutions in 35 countries have adopted EP, covering more than 70% of international project finance debt in emerging markets. Financial institutions that follow EPs will not provide project finance or project-related loans where the client will not, or is unable to, comply with EP. The lenders' mantra was: "We will not provide loans to projects where the borrower will not or is unable to comply with our respective social and environmental policies and procedures that implement the Equator Principles." Recognising the unavoidable impact on the environment and communities from extractive industries is both complex and challenging. The latest round of revisions to EP – the third set, hence the abbreviation 'EP III' – have attempted to dig deeper into the relationship between financing and lender responsibility for the consequences. On the surface, the EP III appears to impose more onerous requirements on borrowers. Yet, they are designed to reconcile the role of lenders with the global consequences of their lending. But are lenders ready to be charged with the responsibility of being custodians of our global commons when the mechanism of financing mining projects, and the banking industry itself, are being re-invented?
First published in Mining Journal, 9 August 2013.
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