Corporate Responsibility

In 2019 the ABA commenced a program of work to highlight for Australians the social and environmental initiatives.

Its purpose is to define and promote the implementation of best practices within the ABA membership to respond to the financial risks and opportunities stemming from climate – and environment – related changes, such as the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).

Large organisations like banks have a responsibility to be transparent with stakeholders about their social and environmental impacts. As the world works towards a myriad of sustainable goals and ambitions, business functions such as finance must shift to suit the needs of organisations and governments.

Financial institutions must recognise the role of the financial services sector in making our economy and lifestyles sustainable and commit to the integration of environmental and social considerations into all aspects of their operations.


UNEP Finance Initiative

The United Nations Environment Programme – Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) is a partnership between United Nations Environment and the global financial sector created in the wake of the 1992 Earth Summit with a mission to promote sustainable finance. More than 230 financial institutions, including banks, insurers, and investors, work with UN Environment to understand today’s environmental, social and governance challenges, why they matter to finance, and how to actively participate in addressing them.

Financial institutions must recognise the role of the financial services sector in making our economy and lifestyles sustainable and commit to the integration of environmental and social considerations into all aspects of their operations.

The UNEP Statement of Commitment by Financial Institutions on Sustainable Development represents the backbone of the Initiative. By signing up to the Statement, financial institutions openly recognize the role of the financial services sector in making our economy and lifestyles sustainable and commit to the integration of environmental and social considerations into all aspects of their operations.
In 2019 the ABA commenced a programme of work to highlight for Australians the social and environmental initiatives. Its purpose is to define and promote the implementation of best practices within the ABA membership to respond to the financial risks and opportunities stemming from climate – and environment – related changes, such as the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).

APRA member, Mr. Geoff Summerhayes, is also Chair of UN Environment’s Sustainable Insurance Forum. APRA’s views on the economic risks of climate change, recently echoed by the Reserve Bank of Australia, are consistent with those of financial regulators internationally. These risks are material, foreseeable and actionable now.

Community

Australia’s banks value the communities in which they find themselves and are committed to engaging with their stakeholders – whether that be their customers, employees, suppliers, community partners, the broader community or the environment.

For pensioners, students, people with a disability or those financially disadvantaged, there are substantial fee discounts and exemptions provided by most banks.

Many banks assist their customers and the broader community by providing financial education, financial literacy and financial inclusion programs and activities. 

Banks make a difference in our community in many ways. It could be supporting a helicopter which helps save lives, volunteering to help people in their suburb, actively helping raise money for medical research, developing programs to help our young people in sport, business and to improve life skills, sponsoring sporting clubs and associations, or providing grants and funding of education and scholarship opportunities.

Environment

Climate change

The ABA recognises that climate change is a global problem that requires a sustainable global solution. Australia’s economy and environment are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Governments, businesses and the community all have a role in driving changes in behaviour and responding to the challenges posed by climate change.

The banking and finance sector will face risks and opportunities with the physical impacts and the regulatory responses to climate change.

The ABA believes that participation by the banking and finance sector will be critical to the successful design and implementation of various climate change policies and the successful structural adjustment by companies and individuals. Banks and other financial institutions are well placed to develop and deliver the necessary infrastructure and products and assist businesses and households understand their exposures and take appropriate actions to shift to a lower emissions economy.

The banking and finance sector has an important role to play in a number of crucial areas, including:

  • Facilitating the trade of carbon assets on the carbon market, including financing the creation and trade of carbon assets;
  • Intermediating between private sector participant buyers and sellers and making secondary and forward markets;
  • Advising private sector participants on commercial risks and opportunities, including carbon risk management techniques and reduction strategies;
  • Investing and providing capital funding for the development of clean technologies, renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency initiatives;
  • Lending to private sector participants and individuals; and
  • Developing products, services and incentives to support other climate change policies and mitigation and adaptation strategies, including retail products and services.

The ABA believes that it is important to encourage the development of a global carbon market, initially through the establishment of a price on carbon and the introduction of a carbon market in Australia. Establishing a carbon price will be fundamental to changing the behaviour of governments, businesses and the wider community – which is critical to shifting the high emissions global economy to a lower emissions global economy.

The ABA supports:

  • A market-based solution as likely to be the most effective and economically efficient way for Australia to undertake the structural adjustment required to shift to a lower emissions economy and meet our international legal obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. Effective policy frameworks should underpin and promote a cost-effective reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • A ‘cap and trade’ scheme based on principles that define a solid framework and design an efficient market. A carbon market should enable the exchange of emissions units to take place in a manner which is economically efficient. Price controls and interventions obstruct the efficient operation of the market and are a disincentive for the development of markets, and therefore should be avoided.
  • A ‘cap and trade’ scheme as part of a comprehensive policy response to addressing climate change and achieving sustainable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Practical strategies and transitional assistance measures for the most affected businesses and households should be an integral part of the scheme. The policy, legislative and regulatory settings for the scheme and the market must be considered in concert and as a package.

For more information on the ABA’s position on climate change, click here

Environment and sustainability

A number of banks have in place strategies and programs that focus on ensuring environmental management of their activities and sustainable approaches to the way in which they do business. These strategies and programs range from minimising their own environmental footprint, to managing climate risks and building capacities within the market and the community, to delivering targeted products and services to help their customers own environmental management.

Click on the links for more information about banks’ environment and sustainability programs:

ANZ Banking Group

Commonwealth Bank of Australia

NAB

Westpac

Water and land management issues

The Australian banking industry supports the sustainable commercial use of land and water.  Land and water ownership are the main forms of collateral used by agribusiness as security for loans.  The regulation of water and land can have a significant impact on their value as security for loans.  The regulation of water and land can also affect their use in producing cash flow and therefore the ability of a business to meet their financial obligations. The ABA therefore has an active interest in the regulation of water and land.