Banco Santander Named Greenest Bank in the World

Spain’s Banco Santander (NYSE: STD) prevails as No. 1 in Bloomberg Markets magazine’s inaugural ranking of the world’s greenest banks in its May 2011 issue.

Eight of the top 10 banks are based in Europe, mirroring the European Union’s commitment to curbing emissions through such efforts as the world’s biggest carbon-trading market.

Santander’s in-house conservation and eco-minded investments brought it to the top, such as arranging a $324 million loan for a U.S. wind farm developed by BP Plc (NYSE: BP) and Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE) last year. According to the bank’s global head of power project and acquisition finance, the bank’s team has closed 40 deals already this year, 90% involving renewable energy.

Investments in clean-energy companies and projects rose 30% to a record $243 billion in 2010, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS) was second overall and topped the list for green investing. New York-based Goldman, along with No. 4 bank Credit Suisse Group AG (NYSE: CS), managed the $3 billion initial public offering of Enel Green Power SpA (EPGW.MI), Rome-based operator of wind, geothermal and hydropower plants. Goldman also co-led the IPO of Tesla Motors Inc. (Nasdaq: TSLA), the Palo Alto, California, maker of the $109,000 all-electric Roadster.

Milan-based UniCredit SpA (UCG.MI) was No. 3. It arranged $1.4 billion of loans for wind farms, solar plants and waste-to-energy generators last year, according to BNEF.

To rank banks’ environmental records, Bloomberg Markets magazine looked at their efforts to reduce their own waste and carbon footprints and their green investment activity in clean energy. Banks had to be members of predominant national benchmark indexes, such as Standard & Poor’s 500, FTSE 350 and Nikkei 225. Banks had to have capitalizations of more than $10 billion and sufficient information on their environmental activities.

The ranking is particularly timely in light of the nuclear crisis in Japan and the subsequent scrutiny of renewable energy. Carbon markets will be a major topic at this week’s Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit in New York City, where key issues facing the clean energy sector will be identified and addressed, helping decision-makers recognize opportunities that will enable them to thrive and succeed.

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