UBS wants to be Wall Street's greenest bank

One of the largest financial firms in the world is positioning itself to be the greenest bank on Wall Street.

UBS, which manages over 2.7 trillion Swiss francs, has made sustainability the cornerstone of its business. As such, the bank has taken a number of steps to be the go-to firm for sustainable and impact investment offerings.

These investment solutions, which aim to deliver outsize returns and remedy societal and environmental ills, are becoming more and more popular among financial firms. But UBS is leading the pack.

The Swiss-based bank told Business Insider its sustainable investments grew by about 40 billion Swiss francs in 2016. Those investments now make up about 35%, more more than $US970 billion Swiss francs, of the bank’s “total invested assets.”

On April 3, the firm’s American investment bank, UBS Wealth Management Americas, announced the appointment of Stephen Freedman as its head of sustainable solutions. In his new capacity, Freedman will be tasked with spreading awareness about sustainable investing among the firms financial advisers.

Freedman told Business Insider that sustainability is integral to driving profit, especially in the long-term.

“There is this misconception that there is a trade-off,” Freedman told Business Insider. “A firm has to pick between either sustainable investment solutions or the most profitable investment solutions, but the fact is sustainable investments are profitable investments.”

Freedman says that UBS’ European presence gives it a leg up over some American banks in the sustainable investment space, because that’s the region where the investment trend first gained traction.

In January, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the bank presented a white paper titled “Mobilizing Private Wealth for Public Good.” There, UBS outlined how to “channel private wealth towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” which cover issues such as health, hunger, and the environment.

The firm also pledged to invest $US5 billion in sustainable development-related investment options over the course of the next five years.

That pledge followed UBS’ partnership with sustainable investment fund Rethink Impact, which is the largest fund of its kind. The joint-venture raised over $US110 million to tackle issues relating to the UN’s sustainability goals, which cover issues relating to health, climate change, and hunger.

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