At Least One Big Bank is Offering Environmental Grants

When we think of the causes that big banks support through their foundations, the first thing that comes to mind is financial education and job training programs, followed by housing, human services, and community development.

More recently, there’s been an uptick in the number of financial firms supporting initiatives to increase college enrollment among traditionally underrepresented groups.

One thing you don’t see much of, however, is grants going toward environmental programs.

This isn’t to say that big banks don’t care about the environment. Bank of America boasts it has already invested more than $20 billion in what it calls its environmental business initiative, supporting environmental sustainability and helping to reduce carbon output and address climate change, with plans to invest another $50 billion by 2020. Similarly, Goldman Sachs says it has invested in or financed over $40 billion in clean energy projects since 2006, and plans to invest another $40 billion over the next decade.

It’s good to see some of the world’s biggest financial institutions stepping up their efforts in this area. Even more notable is how many retired wealthy finance guys are deep into environmental giving. 

Related - The 9 Top Finance Guys in Environmental Philanthropy

When you look at what financial companies are doing on a charitable front, however, there are few corresponding initiatives for non-profit organizations seeking environmental grants. 

In fact, the only big bank that seems to put any real focus on environmental philanthropy is Wells Fargo. In 2012, the company announced it plans to give out $100 million in environmental grants by 2020, including a $15 million partnership with the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation to create the Environmental Solutions for Communities initiative.

Designed to support projects that link economic development and community well-being to the stewardship and health of the environment, Wells Fargo believes the five-year initiative will also help leverage another $20-$25 million public and private investments.

The bank’s environmental funding priorities include supporting sustainable agricultural and forestry practices and private lands stewardship; conserving critical land and water resources and improving local water quality; restoring and managing natural habitat, species and ecosystems that are important to community livelihoods; and facilitating investments in green infrastructure, renewable energy and energy efficiency, and building healthy urban ecosystems. The bank is also looking to support programs that seek to commercialize new clean technologies and innovations, and opportunities to leverage their volunteer network.

Back in June, we checked into where Wells Fargo environmental funding was going, but this is clearly an evolving situation that should be watched closely.

Related - The Winners So Far in Wells Fargo’s Adventure in Green Giving

Wells Fargo and the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation will be accepting proposals for the Environmental Solutions for Communities initiative until December 10, and plans to distribute $2.5 million in grants in 2015. 

More information on the program can be found here. Outside this initiative, the bank is currently only offering grants for the research and development of clean energy technology, and invites universities, research institutes, laboratories and incubator organizations to submit brief queries.