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Responsible banking 12 Feb 2019

Banks, ready to lead the way towards sustainability

Over 1,800 participants from the banking industry, governmental authorities, and civil society gathered in Brussels on February 5-6, to take part in what has become the leading forum discussing the future of the European Union’s industry. EU Industry Days 2019, organized by the European Commission, devoted a substantial share of time to social investment and sustainable financing, something that has become an obligation for financial institutions today, according to Antoni Ballabriga, Global Head of Responsible Business, BBVA, who participated in one of the panels.

“Practically 70 percent of the economy in Europe is financed by banks. However, it’s no free-for-all: sustainability is an obligation on the institutions’ agendas,” explained Ballabriga, who noted that the business is evolving and the sector has wholeheartedly embraced sustainable finance. “Companies, and the sector as a whole, become more competitive when they base their policies on a sustainable economy and social responsibility, and banks are ready to lead the way towards sustainability,” said BBVA’s Global Head of Responsible Business.

The panel,“Investing in the industry of the future” had two focal points: the challenges associated with financing this industry shift and the ideas large institutional investors have about how to cover the financing gap for long-term industrial projects.

“We should help people make sound financial decisions and promote financial health”

The event also discussed the importance of responsible banking and the key role that banks play in financial inclusion and education. “We should help people make sound financial decisions and promote financial health. It is essential that customers understand and know how to make decisions. It’s about integrating financial education into the products and services we offer,” commented Ballabriga.

For BBVA, the pursuit of sustainability represented a shift in its business model, and it has developed new methodologies in response to new trends in the financial sector. As an example, through the bank’s ‘Pledge 2025’, which is aligned with the  United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, it has committed to mobilizing €100 billion over eight years for green financing, sustainable infrastructure projects, social entrepreneurship, and financial inclusion.

It has also joined different international initiatives such as the Principles for Responsible Banking, also promoted by the United Nations. “At BBVA we are already delivering sustainable solutions for our customers, no just green bonds. We also have long-term solutions,” explained Ballabriga. “But commitment is required to accomplish these plans. Not only from banks, but from customers as well, which is why dialogue between all interested parties is fundamental on the path toward sustainability.”

EU Industry Days establishes a framework for representatives from industry, business, unions, governmental authorities, and civil partnerships to discuss new social and environmental trends and how they can be used by “the old continent” in response to the challenge of climate change.

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From left to right: Anna Krzyanowska, Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs, European Comission; Wilhelm Molterer, EF SI Managing Director in European Investment Bank; Antoni Ballabriga, Global Head of Responsible Bussines BBVA; Luis Fonseca, Partner at Maze; Stefan Crets, Executive Director of CSR Europe; Claudia Kruse, Managing Director Global Responsible Investment & Governance APG- Asset Management.

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