The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) lauds Banco De Oro (BDO) Unibank, Inc. for its initiatives to help address the pervasive issue of climate change, in line with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP-BHR) and the Philippines’ National Climate Change Action Plan.
BDO Vice President and Head of the Sustainability Office Ms. Marla Garin-Alvarez admits that, as of yet, there are no ‘best practices’ set in the financial industry when it comes to climate action. She reveals, however, that the impetus to engage in the sustainability and climate movement stemmed from BDO’s realisation that they had a crucial responsibility to affect positive impact on the environment and society. The company recognised that in the transition to a low carbon economy, a socially inclusive and just society must also be upheld.
From there, BDO became the first bank to approach the country’s independent national human rights institution to examine climate change issues and explore ways to mitigate them. These discussions on human rights were eventually integrated into BDO’s code of conduct; existing policies on gender diversity and inclusion; supply chain ethical code; as well as employee volunteer programs which were held in partnership with non-government organisations.
Beyond these internal measures, BDO also released an energy transition finance statement in September 2022. The statement included a declaration of their commitment to the Paris Agreement and the Nationally Determined Contributions set by the Philippine government. Therein, BDO pledged to stop financing new coal projects and bring down their exposure to coal companies to 50% by 2030, which would lower their entire lending portfolio for coal to no more than 2%.
BDO has also been a pioneer for renewable energy financing in the country—even issuing the first green bond in East Asia and the Pacific region. Since 2010, they have funded 54 renewable energy projects across the country. Ms. Garin-Alvarez explains, “This diverse energy mix [of geothermal, solar, wind, biomass, and hydro energy] can take on the high level energy generation and base load requirements equivalent to coal.”
By divesting in coal-based entities and investing instead in green alternatives, BDO demonstrates the active role that private sector stakeholders can and must take to promote economic, social, and cultural rights by securing Filipino communities’ right to self-determination and right to live in a clean, healthy and sustainable environment in the face of climate change.
As CHR continues to mainstream its report on the National Inquiry on Climate Change (NICC) and its corresponding recommendations to government, policy makers, civil society, and the business sector, we underscore that climate action must be a whole-of-society collaboration. Citizens can only do so much when the primary responsibility and resources to respond to the climate crisis falls on the State and carbon majors. As such, the Commission hopes that more private entities follow the strides made by BDO and take the side of human rights—promoting not only humanity’s harmonious relationship with the environment but also the dignity of all. ###
 National Climate Change Action Plan (2011–2028), Climate Change Commission. https://climate.emb.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/NCCAP-1.pdf
 National Inquiry on Climate Change (NICC) Report, Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP). https://chr.gov.ph/nicc-2/