The Globe and Mail reports in its Saturday edition that at first glance, Canada's big banks look to be solidly behind the country's major energy companies when it comes to exploiting the massive reserves locked up in Alberta's oil sands. The Globe's Andrew Willis writes, however, that there are clear trends in finance circles that will make it far more difficult for energy companies to raise capital, such as institutional investors' widening embrace of environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria in managing portfolios.
European investors were early to the idea that ESG principles are central to deciding what stocks to buy and sell. Placing a larger emphasis on ESG criteria puts oil sands investments in a different light.
Scotiabank held a conference on ESG trends this spring. One oil-company chairman who was in the room said institutional investors talked of being fed up with companies that attempt to gloss over their environmental impact with public-relations stunts, rather than dealing with fuel consumption and other material issues. Bank CEOs can afford to ignore protests from environmentalists. They can reason with regulators. Bank CEOs, however, cannot disregard demands from their largest shareholders.
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