Going beyond bottom line

“Sustainable development is the masterful balance of meeting our own needs without jeopardizing future generations’ ability to do the same.”  --“Our common future”   

As mentioned in Genesis 1:28, man was entrusted as stewards of this earth. Financial institutions today are asked to expand their concerns outside of the economic sphere and to ensure that they support the five pillars of the new sustainable development goals, namely people, prosperity, partnership, peace and planet.

Reporting sustainability initiatives

One way this concern is manifested is through the sustainable development reports,  using the framework set by the Global Reporting Initiative. The Development Bank of the Philippines has published, since 2008, an annual SDR in addition to its regular finance-oriented annual reports. GRI recently  developed G4 guidelines widely applicable to all organizations of the  world, regardless of type, sector or size.  DBP decided to voluntarily comply with these new global standards, and be the first government financial institution in the country to take the initiative and be an example to the local financial sector in reporting.

By using GRI standards, the bank is able to demonstrate how its  products and services had a great impact on countryside development, infrastructure, social development and small and medium enterprises. In our SDR, we highlighted our engagement with the internal stakeholders, the government, banks’ clients, business organizations and the bank’s beneficiaries and environmental initiatives. Our commitments, relationships and interactions with them are described in the discussion of our economic, environmental, labor, society and product responsibility performance indicators. 

The report covers these national development issues where progress was somehow aided by the bank’s products and services.  The  SDR covered the performance of the head office and 15 regional marketing centers and a network of 92 branches nationwide.

Understanding impacts

With the contributions of various departments of the bank, a sustainable development report committee was formed  which this author chaired. Aside from reviewing our own performance, we also gave particular attention to our clients’ feedback as a vital source of our information in this report. It is also our vow to consistently develop systems and processes that will enable a better understanding of our impact on the community; and advance positive ingenuities toward a more socially responsible corporate culture.

Also included in this report is the discussion on our corporate responsibility and sustainable initiatives along with our issues, challenges and planned actions, a general description of the bank’s sustainable development policy and the specific practices it translates in the management of our business. Protocols for financial reporting guided our economic disclosures, while environmental data were culled from our environmental management system and the greenhouse gas standards.

Some of the focal points in the report are environment and social impact. In 2002, DBP adopted the environmental management system under the ISO 14001 Standards. We are the first Philippine bank to receive such distinction. Although we increased the number of our branches over the years, our monitoring shows that our continued efforts help reduce our overall environment footprint. We also had a paperlite program to which our business units are encouraged to maximize information and communications technology to streamline processes and lessen use of paper as well as paper works. The bank also promoted and institutionalized department portals a knowledge base and information source.  Aside from that, we also implemented since 2010 eco-safe driving wherein driving techniques, right type of fuel and vehicle specifications must be put into consideration.

Giving back

We give back to mother nature through our DBP forest program which was conceptualized in 2005. We all know that massive deforestation caused rural and upland communities to experience tragedies such as typhoon Yolanda. We are able to provide financial assistance to eligible partners in protecting the environment specifically in the area of watershed and coastal areas by tree-planting activities. Today, we have more than 42 forest projects nationwide under this program and there is a regular monitoring and coordination with our forest partners. This is one of the many ways we think of contributing to the reduction of climate change effects.

In terms of social services,  housing, healthcare and education are a basic need of any human being. Understanding this, DBP’s social development and CSR programs focused on financing the provision of these basic necessities to create and promote an environment conducive to further community development and productive economic activity.

A good number of LGU projects were given approvals to finance their construction projects from government buildings to tourism related development and land development for shelter. A decade has elapsed for our DBP endowment for education program, our flagship CSR that funds intelligent students’ collegiate educations from marginalized sector. We also have our sustainable healthcare investment program in partnership with Asian Development Bank and KfW Development Bank for funding hospital projects as well as proper waste management projects.

Banking for the planet

In conclusion, our continuous pledges are summarized with these words outlined in our SDR:

“Development banking means participation - Engaging our stakeholders: We strive to maintain a working environment rooted in strong ethic and respect for our people and others.”

“Economic Sustainability - Development Banking for Prosperity: We believe that our economic performance must be anchored in prosperity that is equitably shared by all.”

“Development banking for the planet: We believe that our planet’s limited resources must be used in the most judicious manner possible so that their benefits go a long way in improving lives and can be shared by more people.”

“Development banking for productivity: We seek and keep the right people to be able to provide the right financial products and services that are responsive to the needs of the country and its people.”

 “Development banking for progress: We spur economic growth and resiliency through projects that have an impact on the environment and communities.”

Preparing an SDR report requires firm commitment of valuable time and resources, but it is well worth it as the institution aims to measure the outcomes and impact of its program.  Hopefully, more institutions especially in the private sector will see the value of this additional engagement so we all know we are making a difference in this world. Let us all work together in conserving this earth for the future stewards of the world.

An AIM-MBM and Harvard MPA graduate, Benel Lagua is in the faculty of the De La Salle Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business teaching courses in financial management.  He is likewise EVP and  Chief Development Officer of the DBP. 

The views expressed above are his own and does not necessarily reflect the official position of the De La Salle University, its administration and faculty.

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