BBVA is one of the 30 founding institutions of the Principles for Responsible Banking. In the last two years, it has reinforced its commitment to them through multiple actions, accessions and alliances with supranational organizations. In addition, and after incorporating sustainability as one of its strategic priorities in 2020, the bank recently created a global area of sustainability to elevate this matter to the highest executive level of the organization.
A year after being one of the founders of the Principles for Responsible Banking, on September 22, 2019, BBVA signed these six principles promoted by the United Nations Environment Program Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) to help any bank align its strategy with society’s objectives. Today there are already 240 member institutions with $60 trillion in assets, 40 percent of the global financial sector. It is the most ambitious global sustainability agreement to date for the banking industry.
“The Principles for Responsible Banking are our collective response to align the banking business with long-term goals that integrate social and environmental challenges. These principles will definitely help us to be better banks and reinforce the sustainability of the entire financial system. The future of finance is to finance the Future,” said BBVA Chairman, Carlos Torres Vila.
Over the past two years, BBVA has strengthened and turned sustainability into a strategic pillar for the bank. Two years marked by very significant steps, all of them as part of the implementation of these six principles:
First, by advancing in the alignment of its strategies with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement. The bank has carried out a strategic review process, following which it has made sustainability one of its six strategic priorities, placing it at the core of its business. BBVA's objective is to help and accompany its customers in their transition to a sustainable future. To do so, it offers advice and sustainable solutions, based on the SDGs, and also ensures the necessary investments to tackle climate change and the 2030 Agenda.
Setting environmental and social impacts
Secondly, by ensuring social and environmental impact management in the most sensitive areas, setting ambitious targets. The bank also identifies and assesses the impact, risks and opportunities related to climate change and sustainability in general.
In this sense, BBVA has taken important steps in the last two years. Among them, its ‘2025 Pledge’ to channel €200 billion between 2018 and 2025 in sustainable financing, doubling the amount established in the initial target (€67.1 billion euros have already been channeled as of June 2021), the decision to stop financing companies with coal-related activities; or the Net Zero 2050 commitment, which implies zero net CO2 emissions in that year, considering both the bank's direct emissions (in which it has already been neutral since 2020) and indirect emissions, i.e. those of the customers it finances.
Today, the bank's activity in the area of sustainability continues to grow. In June 2021, BBVA joined the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials (PCAF), an alliance to measure indirect impacts and evaluate carbon emissions financed by banks. At the same time, all actions related to carbon footprint reduction are included in BBVA's updated Environmental and Social Framework, in line with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) proposal to limit the rise in temperatures to a maximum of 1.5ºC and with the aim of achieving a carbon-neutral economy by 2050.
These achievements, among others, have led BBVA to be considered the most sustainable bank in Europe and the second most sustainable in the world, according to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.
As for the third principle on customer relations, BBVA is developing financial solutions to accompany them in this transition. These solutions are already of relevance to the wholesale market and are progressively advancing to help SMEs and individual customers. The financial institution currently has a catalog of sustainable alternatives for all its products in Spain and will continue along this path in the rest of the territories in which it operates.
BBVA also helps third parties calculate the amount of greenhouse gases they emit into the atmosphere through their daily activities. In fact, it is the first bank in Spain to provide its customers, both individuals and companies, with a tool to calculate their carbon footprint thanks to data analytics.
Furthermore, and in line with its commitment to responsible use and recycling of recycled materials, BBVA will offer recycled cards in all the countries in which it operates by the end of 2021, and by 2023 the bank will no longer issue any other type of card. The financial institution will deliver up to 7.3 million of these cards to its customers in 2021, a progressive process by segment and by country. In Spain, to date, all new cards issued by BBVA are recycled.
The bank has also progressed in the dialogue with all its stakeholders (fourth principle), especially with regulators, supervisors and civil society organizations. All this with the aim of being an active actor in the definition of the new global architecture that is being created in the field of sustainable finance. In this regard, it is worth highlighting the consolidation of BBVA's position, occupying the co-chairmanship of the UNEP FI Steering Committee and participating in the initiative to promote the voluntary carbon market together with the IIF.
Also of note, the participation as a founding member of the Net Zero Banking Alliance, a coalition of banks committed to ensuring that all of their credit and investment portfolios are neutral in net emissions by 2050, in which BBVA forms part of its Steering Committee.
At the collective level and within the framework of the Principles of Responsible Banking, another important advancement has been the creation of the Civil Society Advisory Council, a body that provides UNEP FI with an independent contrasting vision for implementing the principles on key issues such as climate change, biodiversity and ecosystems, human rights, poverty, social inclusion and transparency. This Council, unique in this type of initiative, thus becomes a key element in giving the Principles of Responsible Banking the utmost credibility.
Governance and culture
In fifth place, and in terms of governance and culture, BBVA made sustainability a strategic priority in 2020 and the Board approved the Group's Sustainability Policy , a policy whose implementation is supervised by the Council itself.
The next step was to launch a Global Sustainability Office that same year to lead the Group's transformation. To consolidate this commitment, in June 2021 the Group created a global Sustainability area headed by Javier Rodríguez Soler, which elevates sustainability to the highest executive level of the organization. At a time when all the Group's employees and units already integrate sustainability into their daily work, the new area will design the strategic sustainability agenda, define and promote the lines of work in this area in the different global and transformation units (Risks, Finance, Talent and Culture, Data, Engineering and Organization, among others) and develop new sustainable products.
Transparency and responsibility
BBVA has also made progress in relation to transparency (the sixth and final principle). The bank has been reporting on its responsible banking policies for years in its reports to regulators, identifying improvements and plans for their full implementation. A good example of this is the second presentation of the TCFD report in 2020, an exercise in transparency that includes progress in the governance model, strategy, risk management and climate change-related metrics.
In this sense, BBVA has joined the commitment to publish ESG metrics, ‘Measuring Stakeholder Capitalism Initiative’, adopted by 61 member companies of the World Economic Forum in Davos, and the group of top executives that form part of its International Business Council (IBC).
The Principles for Responsible Banking are therefore more than a declaration: they are a true guide with very concrete, ambitious, and at the same time, very distinctive steps compared to other collective initiatives, to help the financial sector in its transformation towards a responsible and sustainable banking model.
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