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Green Banking in light of COVID-19

In today's world, where we are facing severe environmental crises and climate changes, it becomes essential for businesses to regulate their activities and adhere to the norms of the environment to reduce the carbon footprints in the surroundings. Here banks play a crucial role as they are the regulator of the businesses by investing in them and also are a regulator of the money supply in the economy. Due to this, no economy can function without a bank.

To save the environment from depletion, the concept of green banks has come into the picture to save the environment from depletion. Green banking is a much new concept that evolved over a decade in the last years. Green bank is a term used to signify the responsibility of the banks towards the environment.

The term green banking signifies that the banks are more responsive towards the issues concerned with nature and are taking steps to at least improve their strategies that negatively affect the environment. Green banking means explicitly to use ays that reduce the carbon footprints of the banks into the environment. The concept of green banking entitles the banks to use more environment-friendly techniques which reduce the carbon emissions into nature and, at the same time, are advantageous for the business and the bank.

Banks play a significant role in the economy's sustainable development of the economy, and therefore in this context, green banks have become vocabulary in this context. The practice of green banking is nothing special but a standard bank only, with the only difference being that it considers the factors relating to the environment and society.

Green banks are also known as sustainable banks or ethical banks. As the name suggests, these banks started to protect the environment, and the same authorities controlled them as regular banks. Green banking comprises three components, i.e., green product management, green corporate social responsibility, and green internal processing. Green product management includes services such as providing green loans, loans for green constructions, green mortgages, online payment channels, solar ATMs, loans for environment-friendly vehicles, investing in businesses that are eco friendly.

Their investments are basically in heavy pollution control technology. Green corporate social responsibility includes investing in campaigns such as tree plantation, organizing marathons for the bank's customers, maintaining parks in the society, organizing wellness camps, educating people about internet banking, etc. Lastly, green internal processing includes using fewer lights and more daylight in the bank, installing rainwater harvesting, a waste management disposal system, conducting green audits, etc.

The system of green banking involves the use of various products, which are known as green banking products. They include providing green loans, green mortgages, green savings accounts, and green credit cards. All these techniques help the banks go green and reduce their environmental carbon footprints.

Green banks are an emerging trend in society. The concept of a green bank was first seen in the State of Florida in 2009. The first bank in India to introduce the concept of green banking was the State Bank of India (SBI) by invested in a wind farm project in Tamil Nadu. After the initiative taken by SBI, many public and private banks such as:
Punjab National Bank, ICICI Bank, Canara Bank, Bank of Baroda, HDFC Bank, IndusInd Bank, Yes Bank, and many others also stepped into green banking and have taken various initiatives till now for the sustainable development of the environment.

But in a country like India, with a literacy rate of almost 70%, it is very challenging to implement green banking effectively and efficiently because people here are unaware of the concept of green banking. Also, some banks are incorporated explicitly for the development of rural areas. Most of the population in rural areas is not well educated about green banking or any such development because of a lack of education and awareness among the masses

 Some other challenges that banks face in implementing green banking strategies are that some banks are still startups and have not gained a lot of popularity amongst people in the last 3-to 4 years and which makes them novices or an amateur in the field of green banking and, therefore it becomes difficult for them to choose the path of sustainable development by opting for green banking.

Secondly, private banks are institutions in the market for making profits apart from government-owned banks. Because the investment cost of green banking is higher as they require specialized talents and skills, the expected returns are long-term, making it difficult for a bank to opt for it. Thirdly the risks involved in hiring specialized labor become challenging for a bank to invest so much at the initial stages.

Also, the risks are about the loss of goodwill to the bank if, after going green, they invest in some big project causing damages to the environment, the bank is likely to face a lot of criticism from everywhere, including the customers of that bank. Apart from these, there are other challenges that a bank faces while going green that are also to be considered.

But in a situation such as the COVID-19 virus that has almost crippled all the world economies, caused losses to the government all over the globe, proving to be the worst wave and also fatal for a million the people across the globe, it is not only advisable but also the need of the hour to create a sustainable environment for the people around the world that ensures security not only economically but also for the lives of lakhs of people surviving this deadly pandemic.

To achieve this goal, the governments and institutions are wholeheartedly working towards it. Still, green banking is also a way to make a sustainable environment. Ultimately, the goal of green banking is reducing the carbon footprints in nature,e which in turn would help the environment become sustainable. Despite all these, the implementation of green banking in the Indian economy is not prevalent s in times of COVID-19 when people are advised to stay indoors, many of them are using online banking as a medium to pay their bills and all other necessary payments sitting at home, but at the same time, there are a lot of people who are not habitual with this payment method and also do not trust the process because of the prevalent cybercrimes in such areas.

It is also difficult for the banks with less technology or is not fully advanced to provide such regular services to their customers. Despite all these hurdles in implementing green banking, there are a lot of advantages of green banking that can not only make the environment sustainable and healthier but also make the lives of the individuals merrier due to the adoption of green banking by the banks. Green banking tends to produce more employment opportunities that a lot of people need as they have lost their jobs due to COVID-19, and also post COVID-19 period, it would help a lot of people to get employment.

A report submitted by the Asian Development Bank states the post-COVID-19 needs that the banks need to incorporate into their, and green banking is among them. As stated above, green banking helps in creating employment; it also helps in creating a stable climate policy which is of urgent need. Depleting land for agricultural use, oceans and forests are the areas of concern nowadays; unencumbered industrialization has caused all these major natural issues; therefore, if banks can create a limit to investing in such projects and try more to invest in environmentally friendly projects, that will not only cause a significant surge in the sustainability of the environment but also is an excellent method for long term investment for all such banks.

A green framework by the authorities is not only beneficial for the environment but also for the country's economy as well. India, a developing country, needs more such initiatives to be taken seriously by the banking sector as banks are considered the backbone of any economy. For an economy to work efficiently, it must have a strong backbone.

Therefore, green banking is one such step towards making the climate better and more sustainable and also boosting the economy by making fuller and better utilization of the resources available rather than wasting them. Green banking is one such field that is not just attracting the banks but also some significant industries and non-banking financial institutions so that among the crisis of COVID-19, they can contribute some effort towards the sustainability of the environment and help reduce the climate problems and also enhance their image as green banks and also solidify trust with their customers as well as stakeholders.

Green banking has become the need of the hour, and in times when the whole world is facing a pandemic and economies are trying to recover from the critical damage that the environment, as well as the economies, have faced, it becomes necessary to adopt a concept such as green banking. Green banking will not only help the financial stakeholders and pave new opportunities for the non-banking financial institutions so that they can contribute toward the society's sustainable development goals and build a society that is not generating any carbon together footprints for the generations to come.

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