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Responsible banking Updated: 09 Oct 2019

"Addressing the most important challenges humanity has ever faced is in our hands"

Climate change, the biodiversity crisis and inequality pose “the greatest sustainability challenges in the coming years,” according to BBVA Group executive chairman Carlos Torres Vila. “Addressing the most important challenges humanity has ever faced is in our hands, and the future will depend on what we do now. For banks, the future of banking lies in financing the future.” Given all of these challenges “companies cannot simply stand by,” he emphasized at an event held by the SERES Foundation in Madrid on Tuesday.

Carlos Torres Vila spoke of the “importance of companies not only being accountable to shareholders - to provide them financial value - but also the responsibility we have to society to address the challenges we face today on both the environmental and social fronts.”

In the finance industry, this frame of reference is defined in the Principles for Responsible Banking, under the auspices of the United Nations, which have been signed by BBVA and other founding banks. “It’s a matter of aligning banks’ strategies with sustainable development, specifically the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change,” he explained to top executives from companies listed on Spain’s IBEX 35. The meeting was organized by the SERES Foundation and took place at the Royal Theater in the Spanish capital.

In particular, “in order to make these principles a reality,” he said, “there are a world of opportunities thanks to technology, opening the door to a new age; and our mission is to put all the opportunities that this new age brings within everyone’s reach,” he recapped.

He also recalled that banks are catalysts for change “because we allocate financial resources and because we can create incentives for positive behavior and discourage negative behavior.” In this respect he referred to the bank’s commitment to mobilize €100 billion in sustainable financing between 2018 and 2025. In the first 18 months through June 2019, the bank had mobilized nearly €22 billion.

BBVA Group executive chairman Carlos Torres Vila - BBVA

BBVA’s Group executive chairman also discussed the concept of financial health: “In terms of sustainability, there is a very important aspect that has to do with financial health. We have the opportunity to advise our customers to make the best decisions.” He continued by explaining that BBVA’s mobile app makes it easier to manage personal finances and represents “a good example of how to integrate sustainability as part of the actual value proposition for customers,” he concluded.

Furthermore, Carlos Torres Vila pointed to how widespread sustainable financial products have become, and BBVA’s leading position in this market. In fact, BBVA is the most active Spanish bank in terms of issuing green bonds.

In short, BBVA’s Group executive chairman described the key role the financial system plays as catalysts in the transition to a more sustainable and inclusive society. Banks have the ability to mobilize and allocate resources toward sustainable activities and can also create incentives for companies and other economic actors to make investment and production decisions using environmental and social criteria.

Repsol CEO Josu Jon Imaz and Telefónica Spain Chairman Emilio Gayo also participated in the SERES Foundation’s event commemorating the organization’s 10th anniversary. During their presentations, both committed to a new model of responsible leadership and discussed in depth the role companies play as actors in the social transformation.

Under the title RADARSERES, nearly 300 people took part in 25 different roundtables with the goal of creating social dialogue and action points to set the agenda for the future. The aim of RADARSERES is to become a permanent observator of the SERES Foundation, and an annual tool to discuss the evolution of  companies’ social commitments.