Piraeus Bank sees job gains from environmental lending effort

Piraeus Bank SA has made 1.58 billion euros ($2.1 billion) of loans on environmentally friendly projects since 2007, boosting jobs and helping the lender’s bottom line, bank officials said.

The effort has generated some of the bank’s lowest rates of nonperforming loans throughout Greece’s economic crisis, said Vrasidas Zavras, head of green banking at the Athens-based lender. While nonperforming loans stood at 37.9 percent of total loans at the end of March, the green portfolio ratio was estimated to be lower than 10 percent.

The loans have financed 3 billion euros in projects, supporting about 7,000 small and medium-sized enterprises and creating about 17,700 related jobs, the bank said.

Banking services for projects related to renewable energy, biodiversity and similar projects should have long-term benefits for the bank, Zavras said in an interview in Brussels. In addition to loans, Piraeus Bank also offers advisory services on opportunities and risks related to climate change and global warming trends.

“The whole thing is much more sustainable” than other business lines, Zavras said. “During the recession period, this business was not reduced.”

Greece weathered six years of recession during a sovereign debt crisis that forced it to seek 240 billion euros in international aid and endure steep budget cuts that cut deeply into public-sector salaries. Greece’s four systemically important banks were bailed out and are now raising capital, helped by investor bets on recovery. Greek lenders have already raised capital in March, April and May. [Bloomberg]