Equator Principles Reporting: Do Financial Institutions Meet Their Goals?

CIGI Paper No. 38

August 19, 2014

The Equator Principles (EP) are a voluntary code of guidelines for financial institutions to report on environmental and social issues of projects. This paper examines how often members of the EP report and what content should be disclosed. Using institutional theory as the theoretical framework for the analysis, seven criteria (annual reporting, disclosure of screened transactions, the categorization of projects with respect to their assessment status, risk category, sector, region and implementation experience ) were used to test whether members report according to the EP’s guidelines.  While the majority of members report about risk categories, sectors and regions, only a minority report them in a way that enables readers to combine the figures and to analyze how risk occurs in certain regions and sectors. Because projects are not usually listed in a way that they are identifiable, the reports are non-transparent, making it impossible to allocate social and environmental impacts to certain projects, sectors and regions.

Deeper analysis found that members which are required to disclose information are compliant. Second, only about five percent disclose all the information required by the EP guidelines, although 85 percent meet at least four out of the seven reporting criteria. Third, the larger the member institution, with respect to its total assets, and the longer the membership duration, the higher is the reporting quality. Recommendations include additional mechanisms to guarantee that the EPFIs follow the EP’s demands include enforcement, standardization reporting or third party validation could help to increase the credibility and the transparency of the EP reporting.

About the Author

Olaf Weber is a CIGI senior fellow and an expert on sustainability and the banking sector. He is currently a professor in the School of Environment, Enterprise and Development at the University of Waterloo and a University of Waterloo Research Chair in Sustainable Finance.