As a provider of financial resources and related services, banks have the potential and ability to positively influence thinking and therefore the strategies of businesses towards sustainability, says N Sunil Kumar, Director – RBS Foundation India and Head of Sustainability, RBS N.V. in a chat with SustainabilityNext
What’s the purpose of RBS Foundation?
The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is a large international banking and financial services company. As part of its sustainability mandate, RBS believes in inclusive growth and demonstrates it by supporting local communities in the countries in which it operates. In India, the RBS Foundation was set up with the purpose of supporting equitable growth and sustainable development.
Through its “Supporting Enterprise” program, RBS Foundation India facilitates financial inclusion and inclusive growth by enabling people to enhance their incomes through household enterprises. In its design is an inherent focus on women, youth and farmers in some of the most excluded regions of the country. RBS Foundation India projects have directly supported over 90,000 households in 11 states across India.
Your target is to ‘Be the Most Trusted’ bank by 2020 – how will the foundation help?
As a financial services provider, RBS has a responsibility to provide finance efficiently and responsibly. An integrated aspect of responsibility is developing a trust amongst clients, customers, shareholders and the society at large. That trust is built in the way we support economic development and create value for society more broadly. The impact of the Foundation and the work being undertaken through its “Supporting Enterprise” program has given confidence to the stakeholders to engage with the bank; an important stepping stone to develop trust and do business with us.
How is the 2% CSR rule influencing the funding options of RBS Foundation?
RBS through RBS Foundation India has been undertaking community development work even before CSR became mandatory. While we have always had a strong connect with the wider community and have evolved a strategy for deploying our community resources very productively, the CSR mandate in a way endorses the work that we have been doing. We will strive to continue with our work on inclusive growth and financial inclusion for sustainable development.
What is your leadership mantra and how much have you achieved using that since you joined RBS Foundation?
My leadership mantra is to advocate and implement change with a sense of responsibility. Responsibility is fundamental to any individual or organization’s success. So, while I have always explored new and creative solutions for more efficient and impactful results, my thought, action and choices have all reflected on a sense of responsibility. This was instrumental in designing the framework and implementation of strategy of RBS Foundation India.
At every stage, ranging from formulating the mission of the Foundation, the quality of projects undertaken, their implementation, engagement with stakeholders was driven by responsible thought and action. It was the sense of doing good in society in a responsible manner that has resulted in RBS Foundation India supporting over 90, 000 households across India. This sense of responsibility has also resulted in my colleagues lending their support through skill and time to ensure that the objectives of the Foundation are met successfully.
How much of influence can the banking sector have on sustainability strategies of businesses?
Banks play a key role as drivers of the economy in any society. Needless to add, you just need to look at the sensitivity of markets, GDP and inflation to any rate changes or changes in monetary policies announced by central banks across the world.
As a provider of financial resources and related services, banks have the potential and ability to positively influence thinking and therefore the strategies of businesses towards sustainability. This can operate at two levels: First, on how an industry, whether a bank or any other business, manages sustainability vectors such as consumption of water, energy, paper, their carbon footprint within itself.
While banks can make a conscientious choice of funding and financing businesses that are more sustainable in their production and revenue generating streams, banks can and have engaged with production units in ways that have resulted in these production units redesigning their processes to eliminate or minimize their polluting factors and enhance their environmentally positive factors.