Environmental perspective in financial institutions

Colombian legislation lacks the instruments to determine financial institutions’ environment protection responsibilities.

It is time for this sector to develop our Constitution’s ecological mandates and generate legal tools to control environmental responsibility in the different projects funded by the system.

The above conclusion was reached at the end the Externado “III International Banking and Securities Law Conference,” held within the discussion panel on the financial system and its role in the conservation of the environment.

Following an institutional research process promoted by the Externado Rector, the Financial Law and Stock Exchange Observatory Research Center has been conducting studies on environmental issues and their relationship with the various financial markets. The project, directed by Professor Mauricio Baquero Herrera.

While the Constitutional Court, in multiples rulings, has defined the Political Charter of 1991 as an Ecological Constitution, there is very little concern on the environmental aspects associated with the provision of financial services. According to Jerusalem Hernández Velasco, senior manager at KPMG Asesores, financial firms position themselves as leaders, as they are the civil society favorites. This prompts the entities to assess the types of risks and impacts produced by the projects they finance. Thus, in his opinion, some degree of Corporate Social Responsibility is generated.

Financial institutions activities are considered as ones of public interest, and the State has the right to intervene when deemed appropriate. For this purpose, it should be kept in mind that the Constitution ecological mandate is also applicable to those carrying out public interest activities within the Colombian Social rule of law. The latter, according to the first findings presented by our House of Studies’ Financial Law and Stock Exchange Observatory.

There is, however, a latent issue generating concern.  State intervention in the market so far, and in practice, has had a market-central, vision, under the rules of the market economy, without the slightest consideration of ecological issues. Moreover, worse still, the sole decree 2555 of 2010, regulating intervention in all the local financial markets, does not contemplate, in any way whatsoever, the relationship between the activities carried out in the stock market, the environment, and ecological protection.

The conclusions reached by the Observatory are the result of rigorous research, as evidenced to attendees at the “III International Banking and Securities Law Conference.”