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Based on the experiences of financial institutions taking concrete steps to integrate sustainability into their policies, practices, products, and services, IFC’s report on Banking on Sustainability reveals the following 10 lessons for effective integration:

  1. Design a Environmental and Social Management System (ESMS) that goes beyond written policies into action, such as allocating human and financial resources for implementation, and training employees. The policy is a necessary but not sufficient step for implementing a strong management system. Other elements should reflect institutional structures and operations.
  2. Bring on board and support dedicated managers and/or environmental and social departments, staffed by experts with appropriate academic background and experience, and responsible for implementing environmental and social controls.
  3. Adopt an organization-wide approach to capacity building, and reinforce it with training and the support of senior management.
  4. Systematically integrate environmental and social procedures for risk management into overall risk management systems for all projects. Sustainability risks vary by project size and industry, but are potentially present in any project.
  5. Transform the assessment of sustainability risks into the creation of business benefits. Work with clients to improve their environmental and social performance rather than simply rejecting potentially risky investments.
  6. Make environmental and social considerations part of overall market assessment and project appraisal. In choosing their approach, financial institutions should define priority areas and focus on them. Avenues for engagement can include: market research into sustainability-driven sectors; partnerships with communities, NGOs, and related organizations; and identifying demand among existing customers for products with environmental and social components, such as affinity credit cards and “green” or social trusts.
  7. Cooperate with international financial organizations, tapping both financial resources and technical assistance.
  8. Join voluntary industry frameworks, such as the Equator Principles, to benefit from shared knowledge and expertise.
  9. Communicate improvements to stakeholders in a clear and transparent manner. Improved reputation and relationships with stakeholders is one of the immediate benefits of adopting sustainability as a business approach. Getting the message out can be done through a variety of channels, such as sustainability reports, Web sites, and the media.
  10. Undertake continual improvements to ensure that the financial institution’s commitment to sustainability goes beyond compliance with legal requirements and remains effective as a tool for gaining competitive advantage.

Download full report Banking on Sustainability from Related Documents section


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