Social commitment is key for savings and retail banks. It is seen in their support for people in various areas: art and culture, sports, research, business and science projects, environment, and other public welfare purposes. In 2015, ESBG members have invested around €1.7 billion in the communities.
Last year, €453.4 million were dedicated to social commitment – social counselling centres, neighbourhood centres and integration projects for immigrants – by the German Savings Banks Finance Group. Other sectors such as sports and culture are also concerned. For instance, the group is sponsoring Jugend musiziert (Youth makes music) a German music competition for children and adolescents, on regional, federal and national level.
For its part, CaixaBank has invested €510 million to promote social welfare programmes and initiatives through La Caixa Banking Foundation. In terms of volunteering, CaixaBank has 5,000 active employees involved in its Volunteers Program, helping more than 1.2 million people since the start of the programme (2,215 volunteer actions carried out in 2016).
These activities, aiming to bring return to the community carried out by savings and retail banks, should be better acknowledged and should benefit from incentives.
In 2015, Erste Group – a member of the Austrian Savings Bank Association - through Erste Asset Management, signed the UN Global Compact, an initiative encouraging businesses worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies. Ertse Group is committed to guide business acitvities by 10 principles relating to human rights, work standards, environmental protection and prevention of corruption.
On a more economic and financial aspect, ESBG members are committed to support SMEs through appropriate financing.
FNCE, the French Federation of Savings Banks, is particularly focusing on microcredit in order to finance the creation, part-exchange and development of very small businesses. Through networks such as France Active or Initiative France, savings banks represent around 15% of professional microcredits distributed in France each year.
Similarly, MicroBank, a social bank created in 2007 to channel the microcredit activity of La Caixa, also aims at providing a response to different sections of the Spanish population whose financial needs were not sufficiently met. Through a new social banking model offering access to quality financial services, MicroBank manages to foster productive activity and creation of employment through financial support for self-employed professionals and microenterprises.
Over all sustainable investments made in the world, Erste Group realises more than 25% of them. More than 50% of these responsible investements originates in Europe.
ESBG members are also committed to the Equator Principles, a risk management framework adapted by financial institutions in order to determine and manage environmental and social risks. It aims at supporting responsible risk decision-making. For instance, 13 projects were financed in 2016, with a total investment of €5.954 million. CaixaBank alone lent more than €778 million. The Spanish bank has internal procedures in place to apply a simplified procedure to transactions for financing smaller projects, starting at €5 million .
When it comes to environment, Groupe BPCE supports individual customers in the realization of their eco-friendly projects. For instance, the Banque Populaire offers individual customers a range of eco-loans to finance their eco-friendly projects related to housing and car purchases. The Crédit Foncier provides a housing loan which includes a subsidy tied to the building's energy performance and a bonus for buildings using solar energy or awarded the BBC (low consumption building) label.
Since 2006, Erste Group is partner of the WWF and has been allocating portions of its management fees for ecological projects. Later on, in 2011, the group became member of the WWF Climate Group, committing even more to climate protection.
It also goes without saying that local banks should increasingly cooperate with municipalities in order to organise the financing of new markets, in particular on green economy, especially those on energy efficiency. The European Commission has promoted such cooperation through the programme KfW-ELENA.
More information about some of our members' initiatives to promote sustainable finance
> Obra Social - Ceca (Spain)
> Erste Asset Management practices responsability - Austrian Savings Bank Association (Austria)
> Responsabilité sociale et environnementale (RSE) des Caisses d'Epargne - BPCE (France)