ByLa Razón.

Banks have been adapting themselves to social needs over the years. Long gone is the almost dictatorial image assigned to them by people. Now, they work towards the evolution of a sustainable economy, and as well as for the respect of the environment.

This enterprise’s commitment is known as “Responsible banking” and its story began years ago. The concept as defined by Ana Patricia Botín, President of Santander: “Has to do with helping people and businesses prosper, bearing in mind the concept of sustainability”.

Origins of Responsible banking

The first glimpse of the concept emerged in the 80s, when the popular Grameen Bank of Bangladesh began its activity with the goal of encouraging the financing of projects intended for society’s most disadvantaged. In fact, behind the entity was Mihammad Yunus, winner of a Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.

Yunus was an economics professor in Bangladesh and, in an era of famine, something occurred to him: coming up with a system of loans within society so that people might have the means to start small businesses that allow them to make a living. Therefore, with them he set up a financial relationship based on trust. The money was usually intended for women without income or a guarantee. The majority of people achieved paying it back before the agreed upon deadline.

Today, Grameen Bank is known for its solidarity and commitment to those who find themselves living in situations of extreme risk.

eSG (ASG) Rule

The precursor was the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, but the turning point happened after the 2008 crisis. Banks changed their mentality as a result of the loss of confidence by their customers, who demanded more transparency and accountability.

Today, Santander is an entity that takes into account the ESG (ASG) rule the most: environmental consciousness, social responsibility, and good governance.

Which is its objective?

They hope to head plans that improve social conditions in society, influence economic development, and promote sustainability.

In the case of Santander, they opt for inclusive and sustainable growth responding to customer requests, supporting entrepreneurs and SME, encouraging inclusion, and promoting education as a main steering force for social prosperity.

In order to do so, they offer innovative services, taking into account risks and advantages, and helping in the transition towards an environmentally committed economy. Likewise, this commitment to sustainability has an influence abroad through financial assistance for projects aimed at preserving biodiversity and improving people’s quality of life.

What do the experts think?

Society positively values the effort banks carry out today in order to adapt themselves to its needs and to achieve transparency. On the other hand, there are those who evaluate their activities from outside.

There are rating agencies that study the behaviour of enterprises and send reports to the media about factors like sustainability or gender equality policies held by such entities. Highlighted among them are:

  • Dow Jones Sustainability Index. Having been done for more than 20 years, they analyse sustainable behaviour of entities including in areas of the economy, society, and environment. For this they have become a worldwide reference.
  • FTSE4Good. Is the sustainability indicator of the London Stock Exchange. It began operating in 2001, along with UNICEF, and it sends two reports annually. Its focus is evaluating social responsibility related to the environment and principles of responsible investment and consumption.
  • Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index. It focuses on an analysis of gender equality policies (internal activity of the bank, services offered to women…).
  • Sustainalytics: Its headquarters are in Holland, but it also has offices in Boston, Madrid, and Toronto. In 2010, it was awarded the best entity in Europe in the ESG (ASG) analysis.

Banco Santander, an international reference

Thanks to the hard work carried out by Banco Santander within the sustainability framework, Banco Santander was ranked third in the world and first in Europe in the application of these policies, according to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. In just two years, it has risen six positions in the rankings.