We live in an era of converging crises and radical change, from rising inflation, social unrest and military conflict in many parts of the world, to the effects of climate change, rapid technological developments like AI and the long-lasting impact of the Covid pandemic.
These changes are complex and interconnected. Responding effectively to them requires holistic approaches that consider the wellbeing of people and the planet. This is how the members of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values, a network of independent sustainable banks that Australian Mutual Bank is a part of, understand banking as a force for good.
In a rapidly changing world, values-based banks have been able to adapt while staying focused on their mission and purpose. We differ from conventional banks, not in how we respond to external challenges but in our starting point, which dictates everything that we do. For Banking on Values Day 2022, we celebrate the values that guide our work.
The following statements represent our collective approach to banking and explain how we deliver real impact as individual institutions and as a movement:
- We are a movement of transformative organisations that want to change the world. Banking is the tool we use to make positive change happen. Our reason for being stems from our mission and values. Creating a positive impact is why we exist, not just an outcome of our responsible activities. So, every time we face a challenge, we look at our values and mission to find the right answers. As well as taking proactive choices to finance enterprises and sectors making a lasting, positive difference, sometimes this answer requires us to make decisions on what not to do or where not to invest to prevent harm.
- Banking on Values is about people. We celebrate and embrace diversity in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, etc. Values-based banks put people first by focusing on the real economy, which serves the community’s needs while caring for the planet. We do this in myriad ways. As a global movement, we practice values-based banking in many different contexts and markets through diversified business models, but with a common goal of using money to create positive social and environmental impact.
- Banking is not neutral. Finance plays a pivotal role in shaping the economy, our society and the environment. Every loan and investment has an impact. Banks are not simply intermediaries of money; they are critical agents of change. How and where they allocate money impacts the wellbeing of people and the planet. Values-based banks put money at the service of people and the planet. Beyond strict exclusion criteria and a sustainable product offering, they intentionally use finance to tackle social inequality and environmental challenges. They help to build resilient, inclusive communities. And driven by their values, they work together to promote change in the banking system.
- Because of their responsibility, banks need to be clear and transparent about their guiding values. Banks must show if and how they contribute with their business to the transformational change required to build healthy, inclusive and equitable societies that can flourish within our planetary means; they must show how they avoid financing harmful activities and demonstrate how they ensure that client relationships are fair and transparent. Values-based banks have a clear set of values to inform and guide decision-making, as well as engagement with clients and communities. These values are intentional and integrated into the business model; they are never simply an add-on.
- Banks use big words. But depending on how they are used, words can lose their original meaning. Unless words that are increasingly common in the financial industry - SUSTAINABILITY, ESG, SOCIAL IMPACT, NET ZERO or CLIMATE ACTION - are underpinned by a clear connection to the values that guide the overall business, they cannot be genuinely transformative. Without such anchoring, ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) criteria, for example, become purely transactional and void of meaning. When values-based banks use big words, they show how they actually matter and are a powerful force for good that delivers real impact.
- It is time for a more comprehensive approach to finance. Beyond financial risks, banks also need to understand the social and environmental risks of their activities and how their loans and investments influence the wider society and the planet. Banks must adopt a more integrated approach to social and environmental issues. Providing green products is not enough. The entire business model should be purpose-driven and focus on this goal. It is time to take action and create real impact beyond the BIG words.
MEET THE MOVEMENT
Source: GABV (Global Alliance for Banking on Values)