The dynamics of ethics

Rabobank’s approach to ethical issues

“We can and must, but do we as Rabobank also want to?”

Rabobank employees encounter ethical dilemmas in their day-to-day work in banking. These dilemmas often arise because customers, the market and society are changing at a more dynamic pace than the establishment of norms in legislation and regulations. Rabobank is committed to ensuring a culture in which employees actively discuss ethical issues and take all the stakeholders into account. The Ethics Committee and the Ethics Office support employees in this process.

The dilemmas discussed cover a broad spectrum. Examples include the development or use of a certain financial product or the application of new technology. They can also relate to carrying out transactions in certain sectors due to concerns relating to issues such as animal welfare, environmental impact, human health or dignity. While these dilemmas can be major or minor, it’s important to remember that “minor” dilemmas can represent a major issue.

Example: Use of data

Customers entrust their data to Rabobank. This both opens up myriad opportunities for the bank and carries a huge responsibility. While the legislation is obviously leading, this does not mean everything permitted by law is necessarily desirable and appropriate for Rabobank. Due in part to discussions conducted within the Ethics Committee, Rabobank has stated that it believes it is important that customers know how their data will be used, that their interests are put first and that their data are safe and that they remain in control.

Ethics Office: Consultative and proactive

Employees can turn to the Ethics Office for advice on ethical issues. The committee bases its advice on recommendations and considerations made with respect to previous situations, the Rabobank Compass and the “Growing a better world together” mission. The Ethics Office furthermore looks for guidance to the internal guidelines and national and international external codes and guidelines on topics such as human rights and the environment to which the bank subscribes. In addition, the Ethics Office supports the dialogue on ethics within the organization by, for example, providing presentations, workshops and publications. It is, after all, imperative that reflection and an ethical dialogue take place at all levels.

Ethics Committee: For difficult and complex issues

The Ethics Office places difficult or complex issues with respect to which a stance has not yet been determined on the agenda of the Ethics Committee. The Ethics Committee was established in 1998 and meets six times a year. It assesses practical situations that have an underlying ethical issue and weighs them against the values and norms of Rabobank.

The Ethics Committee has now ruled 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 Ethics Committee can call for a review of existing policy and guidelines. It also discusses more general social developments with respect to which the bank is expected to take an ethical stance. The bank’s employees can consult the committee’s recommendations.

The Ethics Committee’s composition represents a broad cross-section of the organization. The Chairman of the Managing Board serves as the Chairman of the Ethics Committee.

The benefit of reflecting on ethics

The benefit of reflecting on ethics is that it provides direction and consistency with regard to making ethical choices in line with Rabobank’s mission, Moral Compass and identity. Entering into dialogue at an early stage makes it possible to shape well-considered stances that can be properly explained. These stances can make a positive contribution to the reputation of Rabobank and the financial sector in general. Rabobank wishes to fulfill a meaningful role in society in this way.

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