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The dynamics of ethics

Inevitably our mission growing a better world together comes with dilemmas in doing business. These dilemmas cover a broad spectrum. Examples include the development or use of a certain financial product or service or the application of new technology. While these dilemmas can be major or minor, it’s important to remember that “minor” dilemmas can represent a major issue.

Facing dilemmas

Rabobank and its employees encounter dilemmas on a daily basis. These dilemmas often arise because clients, the market and society are changing at a more dynamic pace than the establishment of norms in legislation and regulations. Therefore, Rabobank has an ethics infrastructure in which the Global Ethics Office is an independent point of contact for employees worldwide who have questions with an ethical aspect. Questions may arise bottom-up, top-down, and outside-in and can be addressed in the Ethics Committee. As many perspectives as possible are gathered so that the resulting opinion is as careful, explainable and sustainable as possible. Of course in the dynamic world we live in, we need to be aware that what is acceptable today might not be acceptable anymore tomorrow.

Ethics at Rabobank

Global Ethics Office

The Global Ethics Office (GEO) is an independent point of contact within the organisation and has a great deal of experience in dealing with dilemmas. GEO has a range of tools, such as extensive information on the Intranet, an index of all issues that have been submitted in the past, etc. GEO can make recommendations for ethical dilemma training and provides workshops itself as well.

GEO’s approach makes it convenient for everyone to carefully weigh up different perspectives on an issue in their day-to-day decision-making. We have formulated sub-questions to help determine: what the actual problem is; what the ethical question is; who exactly the stakeholders are; and which arguments can be made in favour and against.

When issues are new and/or complex they can be submitted to the Ethics Committee. This can also be done anonymously.

Ethics Committee

The Ethics Committee is a beacon for ethical decision making – an extension of the moral conscience of Rabobank – towards members, clients, employees, and other stakeholders of societal challenges. The Ethics Committee (EC) acts as an advisory board for the Managing Board and the organization, primarily for new or complex issues or phenomena. It was established in 1998 and meets six times a year. The EC has advised on hundreds of cases and in doing so has provided employees with guidance that helps them in their day-to-day work. In addition, the EC can call for an evaluation of existing policy and guidelines, if the (moral) context around them has changed. It also discusses more general societal developments. Employees can consult the committee’s recommendations via the Global Ethics Office. The EC’s composition represents a broad cross-section of the organization. Depending on the topics on the agenda experts or other involved stakeholders can be invited to attend to the meeting for a specific agenda item. The Chair of the Managing Board serves as the Chair of the Ethics Committee.

The EC’s recommendations are not just filed away: they lead to changes in, and development of new policy or to specific actions. The outcome has also resulted in significant impact on policies related to e.g. KYC, Human rights, Armaments industry, Animal welfare, Nuclear energy, Shale gas, and the Rabobank Compass and Data Manifest.

The benefit of ethical reflection

The benefit of ethical reflection is that it provides direction and consistency with regard to making ethical choices in line with Rabobank’s mission, the Rabobank Compass and cooperative identity. Entering into dialogue at an early stage makes it possible to shape well-considered standpoints that can be properly explained. Rabobank wishes to fulfil a meaningful role in society in this way. That’s growing a better world together.

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