Banking goes green

By Elaine Green

In a world where both cheap credit and measures to protect the environment are few and far between, there is in fact a banking initiative which is combining both.

Piraeus Bank's green banking effort is billed as the first of its kind in the Balkans. Green banking encompasses everything from a loan to purchase an energy efficient car, cash to help save energy in the home, and loans for businesses who want to go green.

Elena Primikiri, deputy manager of green banking products division at Piraeus, says the financial institution is helping to "create effective and far-reaching market-based solutions to address environmental problems, including climate change, deforestation, air quality issues and biodiversity loss".

We asked her for more detail on the green banking initiative, which began last year.

Athens News: What are the products being put forward?
Elena Primikiri: We offer a variety of specific products, including green consumer loans, a sustainable mortgage loan, and a loan for renewable-energy-sources investments specifically designed for every business size, which includes long-term financing and the bridge facility for subsidy financing, also through leasing and combined with an insurance package.

Do the loans have preferential interest rates? What other advantages do they offer compared with conventional loans?
Our loans offer products under favourable conditions… low interest rates, combined with speedy and simple processes. In addition, the aim is to minimise the insurance [schemes] required, which basically means that the bank is willing to share the risk.

What kind of projects can domestic consumers qualify for?
The green loan is addressed to customers interested in:

  • Renewable energy systems (photovoltaic cells, small wind turbines, etc.)
  • Energy efficient equipment (boilers, burers, ground-sourced heat pumps, etc.)
  • Other energy saving applications in buildings (insulation, double glazing, external awnings, etc.)
  • Buying a bicycle
  • Installing a small water treatment facility
  • Installing water-reuse systems

What about corporate customers?
We offer business loans for all forms of investment in renewable energy sources, energy saving buildings and green buildings, organic farming, products of green chemistry, green transportation initiatives, waste-and-water management, and agrotourism and ecotourism — to name a few.

How do you judge if a green initiative will be more profitable than a conventional one?
Every time the bank is willing to develop a green product, several departments within the bank perform detailed analysis and sector studies to identify the green opportunities. Additionally, we collaborate with external experts in the fields we intend to invest in, such as climate change experts.

What other products apart from loans are offered?
Piraeus Bank has also recently developed a green banking division, with the aim of promoting green investments, and identifying new green opportunities. I can’t announce what specific green investments, such as funds, there will be as yet, however.

Do customers have to go to the green banking branch in Panepistimiou Ave, or can they go through any branch?
Customers can go to any branch. If the information they need is technical and requires more advice on the investment, the green banking branch can serve such demands, with the support of the green banking division. The green banking branch also offers information and advice to potential customers and support to all other branches of Piraeus Bank.

The GREENbanking4Life project includes the Piraeus Bank's partner, the Ecological Recycling Society, a Greek NGO supported by the European Commission's Life Environment financial project. The project aims at reducing the bank’s ecological footprint by improving energy efficiency, recycling and bringing innovative green banking opportunities to its corporate and individual clients.

This includes:

  • The use of recycled and chlorine-free office paper. Between 2006 and 2008 this amounted to 390 tonnes, saving 433 tonnes of carbon dioxide
  • Recycling of a further 155 tonnes of paper annually. Also, recycling programmes for ink cartridges and batteries
  • Recycling of 32 tonnes of electronic equipment, sparing the environment from 11 tonnes of aluminium and 2 tonnes of lead
  • Raising awareness among employees on environmental issues and green business by means of an e-learning programme and weekly green news on the bank’s intranet
  • By investing in renewable energy, Piraeus Bank prevents every year the emission of 540,000 tonnes carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, an amount equivalent to the carbon dioxide absorbed by 80,000 hectares of forest.

Piraeus Bank green banking branch opened last year in Athens

Visitors may:

  • Get to know the environmental policy of Piraeus Bank
  • Learn what the ecological footprint of a company is and how this affects the environment and society
  • Be informed of how climate change can be a risk to businesses and how this risk can be successfully addressed
  • Find out about the European Union’s environmental policies, trends, obligations and new opportunities to invest in renewable energy and clean technologies
  • Learn how they may benefit from reducing energy consumption or by building according to bioclimatic principles

The GREENbanking branch is located at 18, Panepistimiou Street, Athens, and can be reached on +30 210 373 9035.

Source: Athens News (issue no. 13363).