The Co-operative Group, the UK’s largest mutual business that includes the country’s fifth biggest food retailer, was forced to put its £1 billion ($1.5 billion) pledge to invest in clean energy projects on hold after the company’s banking unit halted lending to all new business ventures.
The Co-operative Bank, a self-styled ethical bank, had been the biggest lender to onshore wind farms and other small-scale green projects. But it has cancelled new loans, leaving developers scrambling to secure new financing from mostly blue-chip European banks, The Times reports.
The Co-op, which outlines an updated set of ethical goals each year, was expecting to meet and even exceed its ethical lending target this year. The bank said in February it had already provided £700 million ($1 billion) of lending to a range of renewable energy projects.
But by May the company had stopped lending to new business customers in response to growing concern over its capital position.
The Co-op first launched its Ethical Plan in February 2011, with the aim of being recognized as the UK’s most socially responsible business. The plan is updated every year, which the Co-op says ensures the targets remain cutting edge.
The Co-operative Group Ethical Plan 2013-15 sets out a raft of ethical and environmental goals. Among the goals, some of which are new and some of which were previously announced, is one that aims to generate the equivalent of 25 percent of the company’s electricity using renewable sources by 2017. The Co-op has also pledged to continue work with its Clean Energy Revolution campaign, which seeks to end the use of unconventional fossil fuels and “inspire community energy growth.”