The bank’s role in society: sustainable, constructive and connecting

Banking extends beyond money alone

Bank (noun; plural: banks) – an institution for receiving, lending, exchanging, and safeguarding money

It would be hard to argue with this definition of the term ‘bank’. After all, don’t banks provide society with financial resources, and, well, that’s about it? But when you consider the staggering amount of money managed and lent by banks, you realise they have a huge impact on the economy – and, by implication, on society. Not to mention that they also have an important social responsibility.

Rabobank is what is known as a systemic bank: this means it is essential to the financial system and therefore to the functioning of the economy and society. The Dutch economy and society depend to some extent on Rabobank, which imposes a responsibility on us that goes beyond our customers and members. The choices and decisions we make as a bank have an impact on Dutch society as a whole.

We aim to promote economic growth…

As explained, one of the key duties of banks is financing the economy, most notably the business sector. Approximately 80 percent of all businesses in the Netherlands depend on banks. In efforts to boost the economy and create jobs, the Dutch government promotes growth and innovation in the business sector, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Rabobank is extremely active in this area, accounting for a total of 40 percent of all SME loans provided in the Netherlands. "We want to be the financial engine behind Dutch businesses by helping them to secure funding for their plans," says Eric Saris, Rabobank’s Director of Businesses. Rabobank provides around € 40 million in new business loans every day, which adds up to roughly € 12 billion annually. In those cases where we don’t actually provide the loan ourselves, we often play a linking pin role. "We look beyond the confines of our own walls and seek partnerships with other financial parties."

…and to develop the Dutch business community…

Our role as a financier also includes developing Dutch businesses. In fact, we regard this as one of the bank’s most important duties, one that extends far beyond the provision of funding. Rabobank provides innovation and entrepreneurship, for example as a founding partner of Startup Fest Europe and through its involvement in numerous innovation programmes, including Startupbootcamp. We connect people with each other at business events and through our networks and various online platforms. We also use our know-how, data and experience to help businesses to make the right strategic decisions. We conduct ongoing research into economic, financial and industry-specific trends and developments, both in the Netherlands and as a food and agri bank worldwide.

…but we do so in a sustainable way

Our values play a significant role in all the choices we make, including the businesses we fund, the projects we support and the programmes in which we participate. One of our core values is sustainability. We believe that prosperity should not come at the expense of welfare; ideally, the two should be well balanced, as with circular enterprise. In becoming more sustainable, businesses can improve the balance between welfare and prosperity. Rabobank supports its customers and those around them in improving sustainability by providing financial solutions, expertise and access to networks (and have been doing so since the 19th century!). For example, we encourage sustainable frontrunners in the Dutch SME sector by providing them with specific financial products such as Impact Loans (with an interest rebate provided by the European Investment Bank) and Green Loans (in association with the Dutch government). We are also involved in various efforts to improve the sustainability of agriculture and the food supply worldwide.

For retail customers too

We don’t just support business customers in adopting sustainable practices: we also encourage our retail customers to make sustainable choices to the extent possible. This includes the choice to switch to sustainable investment (Rabobank is one of the largest providers of sustainable investment funds) or sustainable housing. We helped create the Energy Savings Loan: these are low-interest loans provided to homeowners to make their home more energy efficient. Local Rabobanks, for their part, host Smart Refurbishment meetings, where retail customers have the opportunity to meet experts in energy efficiency, sustainable home improvement and sustainable energy generation.