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Banks have a critical role for the sustainable progress

Banks have a critical role for the sustainable progress and it is through the business change will be delivered.

The role of banks in societies is key for economic activity, also in times of change and development, and the role in the sustainability transformation is not different.

“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.

Who is Maria?

Living in Sweden together with her husband Fredrik and their three children.

  • 2019: Head of Group Societal Impact & sustainability Danske Bank
  • 2017 - 2019: Head of Societal Impact & sustainability, Danske Bank Sweden
  • 2014 – 2016: CEO Office  - Responsible for strategies on D&I and Sustainability Danske Bank Sweden
  • 2011 – 2013: Head of customer relations units - International Subsidiaries and Team Swedish State; Danske Bank Sweden
  • 2009 – 2011: Executive assistant to CEO, Danske Bank Sweden
  • 2002 – 2009: Different positions within Structured Finance Danske Bank Sweden
  • 2001 -2002 Trainee Program Danske Bank

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.

Taking a step back, only five years ago climate change was considered more of a peripheral agenda on the boarder to a ‘do-good-cause’ within the financial sector. It is easy to forget how fast climate change and sustainability has come on to the agendas and where it today is considered core to most business and risk strategies. The fact that sustainability is now seen as business critical is hopeful, but there is a need for this awareness and positive energy around sustainability to now turn into action and real measurable change.”

Maria Simonson 

Head of Societal Impact and Sustainability

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.