Bank of America announced that it intends to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in its financing activities, operations, and supply chain by 2050. This puts the Bank alongside Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan Chase in announcing corporate policy initiatives that align with the Biden agenda and goals of the Paris climate accord, which the Biden administration re-joined last month. A principal aim of the accord is to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

In a statement, Bank of America said it aims to omit greenhouse gas emissions from its own operations as well as have dialogue with companies it lends to, so they can “accelerate their own transitions to net zero.” The bank then said it would create plans based on science-based emission protocols for businesses who have “high-emitting portfolios,” like energy and power companies. Presently, Bank of America has a substantial number of clients running oil, gas, and coal operations. Vice-chair, Anne Finucane, relayed this commitment stating, “it is critical that we leverage all parts of our business—beyond our direct operations—in order to accelerate the transition to a net-zero global economy.

Finucane went on to say, “We recognize that this will be no easy task, but we believe our commitment will help spur the growth of zero-carbon energy and power solutions, sustainable transportation and agriculture, and other sector transformations, while generating more climate-resilient and equitable opportunities for our future.” The measures through which this might be achieved include: purchasing 100 percent zero-carbon electricity, reducing energy use, and reducing potable water usage by 55 percent.

Last year Bank of America said that it reached carbon neutrality in its operations a year ahead of schedule and will release details of its financed emissions, meaning the emissions of its clients, by 2023 via the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials. Bank of America was also part of an environmental initiative in late 2020, through which every major U.S. financial institution said they would not finance oil and gas projects in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Environmental groups who have been urging companies to make environmental commitments part of their operations were supportive of Bank of America’s statement but argue that more needs to be done. For example, Ben Cushing, from the financial advocacy campaign of the Sierra Club, said in a statement that he could not see how the Bank will meet its goal unless they create an interim 2030 target for its financing portfolio as well as a plan to stop financing fossil fuel expansion.

Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES)

Prior to Bank of America’s separate announcement, in a statement released December 2020, 42 leading U.S. companies had encouraged President Joe Biden and Congress to tackle the risks presented by climate change, as well as embrace the economic offshoots like creating jobs, driving growth, and strengthening U.S. competitiveness. In January, another 4 companies added their names to the list, which includes: Amazon; Bank of America; BASF Corporation; BHP; bp; Cargill; Carrier Corporation; The Chemours Company; Citi; Danone North America; Dominion Energy; Dow Inc.; DSM; DTE Energy; DuPont; Edison International; Entergy Corporation; Exelon Corporation; Ford Motor Company; General Motors; Goldman Sachs; Google; HP Inc.; IBM; Intel Corporation; Johnson Controls; JPMorgan Chase; Lafarge Holcim; Microsoft Corporation; Morgan Stanley; National Grid; Nestlé; NRG Energy, Inc.; Ørsted Offshore, North America; PG&E Corporation; PSEG; Schneider Electric; Shell; Total; Trane Technologies PLC; Unilever United States; and Walmart.

C2ES organized the statement as part of its own Climate Innovation 2050 initiative, which looks for solutions to reduce the amount of carbon released. Their statement says it is a “business imperative” that companies act on climate and calls for “national policies that harness market forces, mobilize investment and innovation, and provide the certainty needed to plan for the long term.” Further adding that these policies should also address “the needs of marginalized communities, low-income households, and workers and communities disadvantaged by the energy transition.” 

Companies supporting $15 minimum 

In another instance of top companies acting in synch with the Biden administration, Amazon, Best Buy, Target, and Costco, all recently endorsed the Raise the Wage Act, introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), and Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), to incrementally increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025.

Jay Carney, Amazon’s global corporate affairs senior vice president, wrote in a blog post on Jan. 26 that “passing the Raise the Wage Act would increase incomes for millions of employees and revitalize the national economy.” Amazon had raised the wage for its own employees to $15 in November 2019 and has since lobbied Congress to get a federal minimum wage increase passed.

Still, on Monday, a report by the Congressional Budget Office said that Democrats’ attempts to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour would cause a reduction in American jobs of up to 1.4 million by 2025. The CBO also projected that a $15 minimum would lift roughly 900,000 Americans out of poverty, it would add significantly to the national deficit, and “employers would pass some of those increased costs on to consumers in the form of higher prices, and those higher prices, in turn, would lead consumers to purchase fewer goods and services.” They also posited that government spending would fall in areas like nutrition programs; they projected spending to increase elsewhere, including unemployment aid, Social Security benefits, and health care programs, and Medicaid.