Sustainability is aptly defined by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) as “ensuring long term business success by contributing towards economic & social development, healthy environment and a stable society.”
Climate change is increasingly being acknowledged as significant risk in all major corporate boardrooms today. Coupled with stakeholder pressures and preferences of sustainability, companies which adhere to the triple bottom line ethos of sustainable people, planet and prosperity are witnessing tangible benefits like resource productivity and intangible benefits like positive brand recall. This holds true for banking sector which plays a central role in an economy by influencing economic outcomes as they intermediate financial flows, some of which have significant social and environmental impacts, thereby facilitating the transition towards a more sustainable and stable economy.
This transition towards sustainability is driven mainly by the gradual recognition of the business case for sustainability; at my company, we seek to embed sustainability within core operations towards addressing a holistic continuum from risk to opportunity. Today, service organizations including banks are increasingly seeing the benefits of managing and monitoring resource consumption. The key natural resources used in a financial institution include water and fuels like diesel, while other resources like power and paper are also used in significant amounts.
Companies are increasingly understanding the importance of environment management; for us, the first step towards this was releasing our Environment Management Policy (EMP) in 2012. The policy describes voluntary targets of emission reduction and environment management across the bank’s operations by introducing environmental programs to manage the consumption of energy, water and paper resources, reductions of electronic waste, providing a safe and healthy working environment to all employees and managing our product ecology, i.e. the consequences of all business transactions for the environment. We foresee another specific advantage from implanting this system is to help us monitor risks from environmental factors since they are directly affected by the costs caused by natural disasters, industrial accidents, and pollution in mortgaged properties and drive operational cost savings due to enhanced efficiency of resource consumption.
Some of the flagship programs include electricity rationalization by introducing automatic timers in all our branch signage, systems to conserve cooling by maintaining ambient air temperatures in ATMs, motion sensors in our major offices to switch off lights in unoccupied areas and robust electronic waste collection and disposal. While implementing these initiatives, we also believe in the maxim, “What cannot be measured cannot be managed.” We’re therefore currently in the process of implementing ISO 14001 certified procedures and processes to help ensure that all points of resource consumption are measured and then properly managed by carefully designed standard operating procedures. Implementing an EMS in the bank would ensure that standardized and uniform procedures are followed throughout the organization.
Our commitment towards building a responsible organization is further strengthened with a range of international programs to which we have voluntarily committed. For example, we have been among the first Indian signatories to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and the United Nation’s Global Compact (UNGC).
Thus, implementing environment management system is an extremely beneficial activity for FI’s. Not only does it lead to resource conservation, but also cost optimization and savings.
Namita Vikas is president and chief sustainability officer of YES Bank.