ESBG member banks all over Europe enjoy a long history of socially responsible banking. Although their organizational structure differs from country to country, they share important values in their business policy, which are embedded in the three “R"s:
Retail: active in providing retail financial services for individual consumers, households, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), local authorities
Regional: broad decentralized distribution network, providing local and regional outreach
Responsible: socially responsible approach to business and bringing a return to society
WSBI-ESBG has been a signatory of the United Nations Global Compact since 2006, whose 10 Principles provide a complete description of the commitments to follow in the area of social and environmental responsibility. Based on this, WSBI-ESBG pays deep consideration to the new set of 17 measurable Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), formally accepted by the UN General Assembly in 2015, and which range from ending world poverty to fighting climate change and further developments by 2030.
The existing United Nations Global Compact and the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals have inspired the foundations of the ESBG Charter for Responsible Business, which is clearly more focused on banking topics.
ESBG member banks have a strong commitment to sustainable development and address their corporate social responsibility (CSR) as an integral part of their business. Accordingly, ESBG recommends a commitment to the following responsible principles:
1. Fair and clear relations with customers
In order to build and maintain a long-term relationship of confidence with customers, ESBG member banks:
2. Promotion of accessibility and financial inclusion
As fair partners for all segments of society, ESBG member banks:
Ensure accessibility and proximity banking close at hand by means of their dense network of branches throughout the country, including low-populated and economically disadvantaged areas, and via a well-developed range of electronic access channels.
3. Environment–friendly business
ESBG member banks recognise that the environmental challenge and climate change are some of the main collective hazards ever experienced worldwide. As part of their strong commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainable development, ESBG and its members contribute to the mitigation of climate change and therefore they:
Acknowledge the risks and opportunities caused by environmental issues and try to adapt their business accordingly.
Work towards mitigating the impact of their business on the environment, both directly in terms of own operations and indirectly in terms of customers and suppliers.
Promote projects in energy efficiency, green transport and green energy, mainly via the loan business.
Promote products and services that respect social, environmental and sustainable development criteria.
4. Making a responsible contribution to the community
It is part of the role and identity of ESBG member banks to:
Link their business objectives and success to the needs of the local communities and society in which they operate, over and beyond their customer base and paying special attention to newcomers in these communities.
Provide financial services throughout the country and contribute to the economic and social development in all regions in which they operate.
Drive local economic growth, entrepreneurship and jobs.
Engage with communities through multi-stakeholders partnerships or corporate philanthropy, in such fields as culture, social entrepreneurship, education, integration, and the preservation of natural and historical heritage.
Commit to the integrity of the staff, management and governing bodies.
5. Responsible employers
In their role as responsible employers and as part of their philosophy, ESBG member banks:
Are equal opportunity employers that do not discriminate on any grounds.
Provide high-quality jobs and good working conditions for their employees in all the regions in which they operate.
Promote a corporate culture of staff identification with the employer and a strong value orientation of the responsible role of the savings and retail banks in the region.
Provide employees with the opportunity to achieve a good work-life balance.
Promote training and life-long learning opportunities in order to facilitate career advancement.
6. The digital dimension
ESBG members embed the digital dimension in their business models, and therefore:
Value the sensitive use and transfer of personal client data, enabling for sufficient data security.
Further promote outreach, democratising finance, and leverage accessibility and proximity banking taking advantage of digital means.
Address digital exclusion through multiple forms of engagement, including delivery and support channels, and financial education.
Transparency is key. Communication of activities and policies plays an important role for responsible business. Accordingly, ESBG will:
Invite the subscribers to communicate publicly on the implementation of the Charter principles.
Gather evidence and communicate publicly on the implementation of the Charter at a European level. This information will be updated on a regular basis, particularly on the WSBI-ESBG CSR database.