“The financial markets and its participants are necessary for creating the economic drivers and managing risks in a way that contribute to a structured and orderly shift towards more sustainable economic activities”. And even if we still perhaps miss a few fundamentals such as common definitions and standards we have to start while not yet having all the answers. Utilizing to the fullest the financial-, and analytical expertise we have, will therefore be important, says Maria Simonson, Head of Group Societal Impact & Sustainability at Danske Bank.
Maria is heading a team working on one of the strategies in the bank that will have a great impact for many stakeholders going forward – the sustainability agenda. A fundamental element in the strategy is to embed sustainability into the business of Danske Bank.
As one of the largest banks in the Nordics and a leading bank among corporates, who are active on sustainability, Danske is well placed to take a leading position on sustainable finance. “Our relationships with our customers and financial expertise in combination with our commitment to drive sustainable progress is to me hugely exciting to develop going forward, Maria says.
When the sustainability roles were starting to pop up some ten years ago it was perhaps seen as that person or unit driving the sustainability agenda alone. That mind-set has shifted since then. No unit or person in isolation can drive a company’s agenda on sustainability. “For sustainability strategies to deliver change, environmental and social considerations must be embedded in the business”, Maria says. “The role of my team you can say is to catalyse that change”. Therefor the tasks also vary depending of the organisation’s readiness to take ownership for integration of sustainability.
In essence, working with sustainability, whether it is in a central team or in the business, is about making the company fit for the long-term future in relation to climate and environmental, social and governance issues.
An important part for Marias team is also to connect the dots of all sustainability initiatives across the bank and form a coherent picture to report progress against. “There is an increasing interest from pretty much all stakeholder groups – customers, employees, investors, NGO’s to get more information and understand what we do on sustainability and our progress. An important task is therefore to increase transparency and develop our communication for example via the annual sustainability report and sustainability fact book”, she says. This is also an area which is set to only increase in importance considering the increasing demand for so called ESG data. Another important task that the team is responsible for is managing and ensuring that the Group’s sustainability commitments e.g. UN Global Compact and Principles for Responsible Banking are implemented and delivered. While doing so, our role is also to keep an eye on the horizon to spot emerging trends and matters important to Danske Bank’s sustainability agenda, Maria concludes.
The business and societal agendas are to an increasing extent becoming aligned, also for banks.