In making the announcement, the bank also said it would reduce its energy and paper consumption by 2015 and would award $100 million in grants to organizations working to reduce carbon emissions. Bank of America is nearing the early completion of a ten-year, $20 billion goal it set in 2007 to provide loans and financing for projects focused on solar power, hybrid cars, and energy efficiency.
The nation's second-largest bank, BofA has drawn criticism in recent years for its dealings with coal companies, in particular its willingness to provide financing for companies that engage in so-called mountaintop removal mining, which has been slammed for polluting Appalachian rivers and communities. Indeed, some environmental groups and leaders remain skeptical of the bank's intentions. "This new commitment completely skirts that issue and makes no strong commitments around actually reducing the coal, the climate emissions, the fossil fuels the bank is financing," Amanda Starbuck, the director of Rainforest Action Network's energy and finance program, told Reuters.
Bank of America technology and operations executive Cathy Bessant, who chairs the bank's environmental council, told Reuters the initiatives exhibit a commitment to environmental responsibility while also serving to boost local businesses and generate revenue for itself. "For a company in a sector that is challenged for revenue growth," said Bessant, "this [is] a real opportunity to create top-line revenue and to continue to develop the financial markets for [renewable energy.]"