Kids playing and the blue whale

Rabobank brings sustainable banking close to home

Very few people are taking action on climate change and the depletion of the world’s natural resources. But sustainability is actually important to all of us. How does Rabobank make sustainable banking tangible and appealing to a broad public? Rabobank Director of Sustainability Bas Rüter explains what ‘nearby and sustainable’ means in this context.

What do kids having fun playing on the living room floor have to do with sustainable banking? And what’s the connection between a majestic blue whale swimming through open water and Rabobank?
Rabobank Director of Sustainability Bas Rüter provides a detailed explanation. The blue whale is swimming off the coast of Chile because fish farming companies are purposely giving it the space it needs. The kids can play on the floor because their house has floor insulation. Both developments are thanks in part to Rabobank’s efforts in the field of sustainability.
Rabobank uses images of kids playing and the blue whale swimming to bring sustainable banking close to home for the Dutch public. Rüter: 'About fifteen percent of the Dutch public can be categorised as sustainability die-hards.
They’re aware of the urgency of taking care of the planet, the environment, vulnerable groups of people and animals and are acting accordingly. But the vast majority of the Dutch public doesn’t do anything to combat climate change and the depletion of the world’s resources. But they can still be motivated by the prospect of a more enjoyable life, better products, a financial advantage or beautiful nature. And that’s why we zero in on precisely those motives through sustainable banking.'

We join Rüter in looking at three areas of sustainable banking that the general public consciously or unconsciously comes into contact with every day:

  • Taking small steps towards more sustainable food
  • More comfortable home living with less CO2 emissions
  • Banking services for vulnerable groups

Taking small steps towards more sustainable food

‘We’ve got to treat animals, the environment and natural resources responsibly in order to be able to produce enough food for a rapidly growing world population in the future. Rabobank is active internationally in the food and agri sector. We promote making food in the supermarket more sustainable step by step. Ten production chains, including fish, soy, dairy and coffee, have been given priority.
While our sustainability activities are transparent, they’re not tangible to the general public. We discuss ideas and plans for making food production more sustainable with other stakeholders as part of international consultation platforms. What’s more, we’re involved in projects in which farms actually put these kinds of ideas into practice.
We are making progress, albeit in small steps. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Rabobank have been working in partnership for years in Chile to make salmon fishing more sustainable. People might think that sounds abstract, but they won’t after seeing the blue whale once again being given room to live thanks to this sustainability process.’

Greater comfort at home with less CO2 emissions

'More energy-efficient appliances and floor, wall and window insulation reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions. It’s actually more important to most people that these measures often result in lower living expenses, greater comfort and enhanced re-saleability.
Dutch local Rabobanks leverage greater comfort at home and the potential financial advantage to attract a broad group of consumers to their Smart Refurbishment events where homeowners can meet local suppliers and contractors. Rabobank financial advisers are also on hand to provide visitors with practical advice about energy-saving measures and potential ways of financing them. The Smart Refurbishment events have proven to be a place where people really get down to business. Local Rabobanks have held thirty of these events this year and will continue organising them in 2016. We’re going to launch a pilot of an online version of Smart Refurbishment in 2016.
And home isn’t the only place where you can save energy. That’s why we’re joining forces with Eneco power company to help local sports clubs make their facilities more sustainable.’

Banking services for vulnerable groups

'Banking services are becoming more and more virtual. This makes it important to ensure that vulnerable customer groups, such as seniors, people suffering from dementia, people with reading difficulties and people with a physical or mental disability, are able to use these services. Sometimes all they need is an additional explanation and some assistance with how to use mobile banking for example. We also have customers who need special devices because, for example, their sight is seriously impaired. It’s also important that vulnerable groups are protected against unwanted use by themselves or others.
We assist these vulnerable people in a very targeted way through our Banking Together approach. I’m very proud of this: there isn’t a single other bank in the Netherlands where the bank adviser rides an electric scooter to an on-site sitting at a retirement home. Now that’s what I call nearby and sustainable.'

© naturecompl.com/Mark Brownlow/WWF

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