In 2016, BBVA reinforced its efforts and initiatives toward community and its responsible banking model. Across the Group, countless activities clearly showed the bank's commitment to such matters as education, knowledge, financial inclusion and the environment.
The year began with one of the most important international science events: the announcement of the winners of the BBVA Foundation Fronteras del conocimiento (Frontiers of knowledge) Awards. Stephen Hawking was one of the eleven laureates. For the first time, he was given an award in recognition of his research into galaxy formation.
A better world through science
These were the first of a series of awards in various scientific areas that were announced throughout the year. In this way, BBVA supported, gave visibility or financed the projects, ideas and work of individuals that labor to make the world a better place through science.
Here, we must mention the BBVA Foundation Biodiversity Conservation Awards, which recognize activities based on scientific knowledge of nature. The winners this year were GREFA, Conservation Land Trust and Carlos de Hita.
In turn, the Spanish Physics Awards (BBVA Foundation and the Royal Spanish Society of Physics) are given in recognition of top-level researchers; motivate younger scientists; and foster the relationship between science and business. This year, the laureates were chosen for their work in new study and development areas in matter at the scale of atoms and molecules (in other words, the "nanoworld").
One of the lesser known sciences, mathematics was also the focus of attention in 2016 with the Vicent Caselles Awards, which recognize and fund young mathematicians. In keeping with this line of economic support, the new BBVA Foundation Grants for Scientific Research Teams and Cultural Researchers and Creators incentivize personal projects of professionals that are mid-way through their careers and have an innovative approach in the most diverse areas, e.g. Basic Science, Information Technology and Plastic Arts.
A different way of educating
Education was another major focus of BBVA's social programs. The 2016 Teacher Action Awards are clear evidence of this commitment with 438 applications centered on promoting values in the classroom. The winning projects show the sensibility of a group of teachers who strive to educate beyond school curricula in such subjects as accessibility for people with disabilities, social inclusion and diversity.
Financial education is one of the main issues addressed by BBVA's responsible banking activities in all of the territories where the bank operates. Children and young people benefit from such programs as "Valores de futuro" in Spain and Mexico and "Liga de Educación Financiera BBVA" in BBVA Chile. As for adults, there are programs such as "Adelante con tu Futuro (Forward with your Future)" in several Latin-American countries and "Mi Jubilación" in Spain and Portugal.
The SDGs, a challenge that still needs to be fulfilled
Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was one of the main challenges faced by BBVA in 2016 and it will carry on into the new year. Aiming to integrate these goals into its activity, the efforts of BBVA Microfinance Foundation are bearing significant fruit and have been recognized by the UN.
The Foundation is one of the members of the international advisory group for the Sustainable Development Goals Fund (SDG-F) and one of the case studies in the guide the international body is preparing on the role of businesses in achieving these goals.
Among its many activities, the BBVA Microfinance Foundation has continued to support small entrepreneurs in developing countries where BBVA operates. The results of these efforts have been described in the Social Performance Report 2015. Measuring What Really Matters, which was presented to Queen Letizia during a work meeting. This report contains the figures of the impact of the Foundation's activity in the world; its initiatives help 1.7 million people in Colombia, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Chile, Panama, Argentina and Puerto Rico.
Better communication, better informed customers
In 2016, BBVA also reached major milestones in its promotion of a distinctive responsible banking model. To this end, BBVA has remained a leader in transparent, clear and responsible communication (TCR) that helps customers make informed financial decisions.
Under the motto "A responsible bank is a clear bank," BBVA has been working on four key areas: TCR sheets that explain each product clearly and completely; TCR contracts with a simplified structure; TCR advertising that guarantees that customers receive the information they need clearly and with no small print; and TCR in digital channels.
Good use of language
Fundéu BBVA, which recently renewed its collaboration agreement with BBVA, has kept working to promote correct use of the Spanish language in the media. With this purpose in mind, several major projects were implemented such as an application for mobile devices, which includes 300 writing tips on economic and financial language; and the Aracne project, which analyzes the evolution of press between 1914 and 2014. On the strength of its participation in the first easy-to-read online dictionary, aimed at people with intellectual disabilities or reading difficulties, it was chosen for one of the Madrid 2016 Full Inclusion Awards.
The importance of metrics
The methods used to measure the results of BBVA's activities have played a vital role in determining the reach of everything the bank has done in terms of responsible banking in 2016. For the last four years, BBVA has been using the rsc2 methodology, proposed by the SERES Foundation and McKinsey, to measure the social and economic value of its activities in this area. The use of this tool has confirmed that the initiatives designed to have a positive impact on people generate value for BBVA itself.
Leading standard on funding the defense sector
The bank has had its own Defense Policy since 2012. This document describes the activities linked to the weapons industry that go against its business principles and behavior. In recognition of this commitment, BBVA has become the only bank, within its reference group, that is part of the Triodos Investment Management investment universe. A leader in ethical banking, this firm applies the strictest standards to its investment decisions.
The reports Don't Bank on the Bomb and Worldwide Investments on cluster munitions: a shared responsibility, by the Dutch NGO PAX, have recently given recognition to the bank's commitment in terms of defense and gave a positive overview of BBVA's policy.
A greener company
Another key area of BBVA's work in 2016 was the environment. Its new corporate head headquarters in Madrid, Ciudad BBVA, have been awarded the LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), one of the most stringent building standards in the world.
Additionally, in 2016 BBVA continued to focus on strategies for sustainable finance and integration of environmental and social criteria into its products. As a result, it became the top Spanish bank in green bonds as per Bloomberg's ranking.