RBC establishes Blue Water grant program, unveils expanded environmental policy
Combining environmental stewardship with social commitment, the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) has established a new ten-year, $50-million grant program to support projects dedicated to water conservation, watershed protection, access to clean drinking water, and other water-related issues in Canada and around the world. The RBC Blue Water Project(TM) represents the largest charitable commitment in the bank's history.
The program, to be in full operation by April 2008, will comprise three grant streams:
- Visionary Grants: multi-year grants to global organizations that show vision, foresight and innovation to support programs within and beyond Canada;
- Leadership Grants: annual grants, to be awarded through a request for proposal process to organizations that are leaders in providing regional programs within North America; and
- Community Action Grants: ongoing grants to community-based organizations in Canada, the U.S. and the Caribbean to support local water conservation projects.
As part of the project's official launch, RBC was scheduled to announce its first grant recipient on October 29. The bank will then assemble a panel of experts to develop the overall granting strategy and guidelines.
"Lack of access to clean fresh water is considered to be one of the major threats to human health and economic development around the world. The demands on this limited resource continue to grow, even in Canada, where we have one of the world's largest supplies of freshwater," said RBC president and CEO Gordon Nixon. "This is an urgent global humanitarian crisis, and is becoming an economic crisis, in both developed and developing nations, if industries that need fresh water for their operations can't find it," he added.
The announcement of the RBC Blue Water Project coincided with the unveiling of RBC's Environmental Blueprint(TM), a document that formalizes the bank's commitment to environmental sustainability.
The Blueprint includes RBC's commitments to reduce its environmental footprint and outlines how the company will approach new and emerging environmental issues in its business activities.
"RBC introduced its first environmental policy 15 years ago, and since then, we have worked to reduce our footprint and integrate environmental sustainability into activities such as lending and procurement," said Mr. Nixon. "This Environmental Blueprint builds on our past efforts formalizing RBC's global policy and priorities, and provides a roadmap to guide our future actions."
The RBC Environmental Blueprint includes the company's revised environmental policy, originally drafted in 1991, and assigns priority to new and emerging issues, including climate change, biodiversity, forests, clean water and the rights of indigenous peoples. To address these priorities, the Blueprint lists three primary objectives and steps to achieve those objectives:
1. Reducing the organization's environmental footprint (by reducing greenhouse gas emissions intensity and energy use, developing an environmental procurement policy, reducing paper and water use and minimizing waste);
2. Promoting environmentally responsible business activities (for example, by applying environmental due diligence criteria to lending and debt and equity underwriting services and incorporating environmental risk factors into relevant policies and decision-making processes); and
3. Offering environmentally sustainable banking products and services and investment options.
To ensure that the RBC stays on course in implementing its Blueprint, the document includes commitments to continuing stakeholder engagement, environment-oriented philanthropy and regular progress reporting. As well, responsibility for oversight of the Blueprint's implementation has been assigned to RBC's senior executive-level corporate environmental affairs group, ultimately reporting to the chief operating officer.
RBC consulted a number of environmental organizations in the development of the Blueprint, including WWF-Canada and The Ethical Funds Company. Nixon acknowledged that the Blueprint is "a living document that we will need to continue to review and adapt over time."
RBC is included on the 2007 Dow Jones World and North American Sustainability Indices, in addition to being listed on the Jantzi Social Index, the FTSE4Good Index, and the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations ranking. This year as well, Newsweek magazine ranked RBC first among large corporations worldwide for its ability to manage environmental risks and opportunities. The bank contributed more than $83 million to community causes worldwide in 2006 and produces an annual Corporate Responsibility Report outlining its sustainability performance.
More information on RBC's Environmental Blueprint and the Blue Water Project is available on the company's Web site, www.rbc.com/environment.