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The Responsible Rebound

Santander Bank Polska –- the road to sustainable development: from taking the first steps to setting new trends

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Santander Bank Polska has been actively pursuing its responsible business strategy for many years. Engaged in numerous social initiatives, most bank-like companies start with philanthropic activities and then gradually engaged in more and more projects to eventually make sustainable development one of the most important pillars of any organisation’s business strategy.

Leader’s responsibility

Today, Santander Bank Polska is not only maintaining the highest banking standards, as shown by regular recognition in prestigious industry rankings and competitions, but also constantly expanding the scope of projects delivered to its stakeholders. The trust of our customers, employees and investors, and the respect we feel towards them, influence the shape of actions we take as part of our responsible banking strategy,” says Michał Gajewski, CEO of Santander Bank Polska.

Tapping into the potential of the bank with the largest private capital in Poland, fostering cooperation within the sector and establishing valuable partnerships (such as common work towards the Sustainable Development Goals and membership in the Responsible Business Forum) supports the bank’s business activities and helps it overcome local, national or even global challenges.

“Santander Bank Polska wants to drive changes, to respond to the challenges of today’s world and, above all, to participate in the transformation of that world based on sustainable development,” says Mr Gajewski.

Santander Bank Polska Group’s approach to responsible business and sustainable development is inextricably linked to the Principles for Responsible Banking proposed by the UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI). Being more than just a business strategy, the approach is also a way of thinking about everyday activities and raising awareness among stakeholders by means of both bank’s own initiatives and actions taken in concert with other financial institutions.

Green and inclusive banking

Today, it is difficult to imagine sustainable development without sustainable finances. Therefore, the bank supports its customers and accompanies them in the energy transition process. This is done by financing projects which visibly limit the negative impact on nature and society and withdrawing from the funding of environmentally harmful undertakings.

Santander Bank Polska is continuously developing its green initiatives. It was the first commercial bank to issue green bonds worth €137.1m.

As part of one of the pillars of its strategy (Green Bank), Santander Group has made a commitment to raise over €120 billion in green financing between 2019 and 2025, with a focus on providing its customers with funds through credit and leasing products that support energy efficiency. Notable actions connected with that pillar include joining the Pact for the Sustainable Use of Plastics, issuing green bonds and signing the first ESG-linked loan agreement in Poland. Loans of that type introduce measurable incentives for borrowers, making them feel actually responsible for activities aimed at improving their environmental and social profile. So far, Santander Group has participated in more than 70% of new ESG-linked financing transactions worldwide.

Market and consumer pressure and new regulations prompt companies to gear their business operations towards sustainable development. This process is driven by documents such as the EU requirements on data reporting and simplification of procedures or the report of the Technical expert group on sustainable finance (TEG) that describes activities related to climate change adaptation and presents exhaustive implementation guidelines for the EU Taxonomy, including minimum social safeguards. Accordingly, institutions need to constantly adjust to the ever-evolving environment and keep bringing in new procedures.

In June 2019, Santander Bank Polska introduced an extensive package of social and environmental policies. One of them was the General Sustainability Policy, which comprehensively defines the bank’s approach to responsible business. The document includes many voluntary ethical, social and environmental commitments that go beyond legal provisions. Together with the UN goals, it is taken into account during strategic planning processes. It also sets standards for the day-to-day work of the bank’s executives and employees.

Santander Bank Polska wants to contribute to a sustainable and inclusive economic growth that improves the quality of human lives and levels out economic differences, which are one of the factors behind social exclusion. The bank concentrates on equalising economic opportunities in society and, just like the entire Santander Group, promotes financial education through programmes such as Santander Universidades. The aim of this project is to prepare university students for their entry into the labour market and foster the idea of entrepreneurship thanks to the cooperation between business and academic circles. Another long-standing initiative of the bank, called Finansiaki, helps children understand the causes and results of various financial decisions. In addition, the bank runs many education schemes addressed to senior citizens.

Dialogue with stakeholders

Santander Bank Polska is oriented towards cooperation. Embedded in the bank’s strategy, the culture of dialogue is reflected in regular meetings with stakeholders, multiple bottom-up projects and, above all, care for the transparency of responsible business activities. Each year, the bank publishes a Santander Bank Polska CSR Report, which is always prepared in accordance with the guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI Standards) and verified by an independent auditor. The seventh and latest report can be viewed at en.raport.santander.pl.

Favourable reception of the bank’s projects is proved by a number of awards. For example, the Santander Bank Polska CSR Report for 2018 won the Social Reports competition organised by the Responsible Business Forum and Deloitte. The jurors noted in particular the bank’s positive impact on the environment, and the accuracy of the report. Santander Bank Polska was also recognised with the CSR Golden Leaf, a prestigious sustainability award for exceptional engagement in the support of local communities, actions towards sustainable development and compliance with the highest ethical standards. It is worth nothing that it was the third CSR Leaf awarded to the bank in a row. The Ethical Company title received in 2019 is a further proof that Santander Bank Polska is among the companies that uphold the highest standards of integrity, reliability and social responsibility and that it develops its corporate culture, based on ethics and values, in a systemic fashion.

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