The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) is one of Canada’s oldest banks—2017 marked its 150th year in business. It is also one of the largest. Its four business units—personal banking, Canadian commercial banking and wealth management, American commercial banking and wealth management, and capital markets—control an asset base topping C$565 billion.9
CIBC is a leading Canadian enabler of the climate crisis, at a time when transitioning away from fossil fuel development is urgently needed. From 2016 to 2017, CIBC’s financing of the most environmentally extreme fossil fuels rose by C$2 billion.10
Like many large, service-centred corporations, CIBC emphasizes its ability to combat climate change internally through changes to its business practices. These changes began in 2002, with recognition that while the bank itself generates relatively low greenhouse gas emissions, “there are opportunities to further improve our carbon emission performance that is associated with our operations, supply chain, and business activities.”1 A variety of “green” initiatives have included reducing in-house carbon emissions and energy use, increasing environmentally conscious resource use, instituting recycling initiatives, improving waste management and reducing business travel by executives.2
Despite recognizing that “climate change is an important environmental issue” that will have a “measurable impact on communities and businesses all over the world,”3
most of the initiatives in CIBC’s Carbon Management Program assure that “business as usual” can continue. Measures in place to insulate the bank’s financial assets and ensure its future growth include
Like Canada’s other big banks, CIBC is a signatory of the Equator Principles, a framework for determining whether potential business activities (e.g., financing) impinge on the protection of natural habitats or Indigenous rights. Yet its grade from CDP (the Carbon Disclosure Project—a global disclosure program for corporations to track and measure their environment impact) is poor. CIBC received a D in 2018.
|MARKSMEN ENERGY INC.
|GIBSON ENERGY INC.
|BONAVISTA ENERGY CORP.
|PEMBINA PIPELINE CORP.
|CRESCENT POINT ENERGY CORP.
|ENBRIDGE ENERGY MANAGEMENT
|ARC RESOURCES LTD.
|PHX ENERGY SERVICES CORP.
|CENOVUS ENERGY INC.
|ENSIGN ENERGY SERVICES INC.
|CANADIAN NATURAL RESOURCES LTD.
|TECK RESOURCES LTD.
Includes CIBC’s 15 largest shareholdings in fossil fuel companies. Source: Orbis Database, February 2019.
Notable shareholdings include Canadian Natural Resources Limited (2.16 per cent of its shares), Teck (2.13) and Enbridge (2.22) — central firms in Canada’s natural gas, mining and pipeline industries, respectively. These investments do not appear to be influenced by climate concerns; for example, one of the bank’s largest energy holdings (4.88 per cent) is TransAlta, an Alberta-based firm that burns coal to generate electricity—a practice with harmful impacts on the environment and human health.6
The bank offers consumer banking clients the opportunity to directly invest in Canadian fossil fuels through its Energy Fund. Targeted toward investors with interests in high-risk, long-term investments in the energy sector, the fund offers access to a portfolio that holds shares in some of the country’s largest fossil fuel companies, including Suncor, Canadian Natural Resources, Enbridge and Shell Canada. Created in 1996, the fund is now valued at nearly C$60 million.7
Aside from owning and leveraging shares in Canadian extractive firms, CIBC is also heavily involved in the financing of large-scale industrial projects, like the Trans Mountain pipeline (see below). The scope of this activity can be captured by reviewing the bank’s loans to “extreme fossil fuels”—oil sands, liquefied natural gas, Arctic and deep-sea oil, and coal—which are most harmful to the climate. CIBC’s portfolio here exceeded C$3.8 billion in 2017 alone, and over C$8.7 billion since 2015.8 The vast majority of its extreme fuel investments for 2017—C$3.6 billion—were funnelled to the oil sands, earning CIBC recognition as the world’s fourth-largest financier of oil sands extraction.
|Toronto Dominion Bank (TD)
|Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)
|Bank of Montreal (BMO)
|Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank)
|Self-owned via its funds
|Vanguard Group Inc.
|Power Corporation of Canada
|Franklin Resources Inc.
|Brightsphere Investment Group
|Deutsche Bank AG
Included are all shareholdings of 1% and greater. Orbis database, June 2019.
Learn more about Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce at LittleSis.org
The intent of the Corporate Mapping Project database is to engage Canadians in a conversation about the role of the fossil fuel sector in our democracy, by “mapping” how power and influence play out in the oil, gas and coal industries of BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan.