Rabobank presents 2017 SDG report

Rabobank presents the contributions it made last year to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our 2017 SDG Report focuses on climate-friendly agriculture and the reduction of food waste.

The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were drawn up to combat poverty, protect the planet, and to ensure prosperity and well-being. Together they form a worldwide sustainable development agenda with a target date of 2030. In its own annual SDG reports, Rabobank presents the progress it has made towards the goals, which are embedded in the bank's strategic ambition.

The goals to which Rabobank makes a significant contribution are depicted in color and in proportion to that contribution. Goals where we have had a limited impact are depicted in gray.

Focus on climate-friendly agriculture

The report for 2017 highlights the themes of climate-friendly agriculture and the reduction of food waste. As a leading food & agribank, Rabobank can make a difference in these areas, by working together with its clients and partners. In this context, Rabobank launched Kickstart Earth last October, part of the three-year Kickstart Food program. Kickstart Earth focuses on climate-friendly agriculture. “That’s agriculture which has been adapted to the changing climate and which doesn't contribute to the warming of the planet,” explains Bas Rüter, Director of Sustainability at Rabobank.

Better land use in Brazil

As an example, Rüter refers to the cooperation between Rabobank and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Brazil, where large-scale single-crop farming is a significant problem. “We stimulate Brazilian farmers to switch to the Integrated Crop-Livestock-Forest (ICLF) system. This means that they alternate between using their land for agriculture, cattle breeding, and forestry. Together with the WWF, we calculated that this way of utilizing the land was genuinely better for the environment and yields a stable revenue stream in the long term.”

“Brazilian farmers are starting to come round to our idea”

- Bas Rüter, Director of Sustainability at Rabobank

The bank also brings together various parties within its network, for example by organizing field days in which interested farmers can come and have a look at how forerunners in sustainable land use operate. Rüter: “As a result, Brazilian farmers are starting to come round to this idea.”

More sustainable palm oil

In Indonesia, Kickstart Earth focuses on palm oil production. Many of the current plantations were planted 20 to 25 years ago, says Rüter. “Together with its large clients and public donors, Rabobank offers Indonesian smallholders cheap financing to harvest and replant their current oil palms. The farmers also receive advice about the kinds of trees that produce higher yields. As a result, their income rises, which means they don't have to cultivate new land. In addition, through its Rabo Foundation and Rabo Partnerships, the bank has been advising smallholders for decades on how to form cooperatives, because individual farmers are often too small to be eligible for financing.”

This example in Indonesia demonstrates just how much the 17 SDGs are interrelated. Investments in climate-friendly agriculture have a positive effect on many of the other goals. Rüter: “This is not just an ecological and agricultural issue, but also a social matter. We try to help the farmers earn a decent income.”

One billion dollar fund

The Kickstart Earth program includes a fund of one billion dollars, set up jointly by Rabobank and the UN Environment Programme. This was born out of the awareness that switching to more sustainable food production requires substantial investment. Rüter: “We are constantly on the lookout for clients who want to invest in reforestation, in improving soil quality, or other forms of climate-friendly agriculture. But often these projects cannot be fully financed by us or by other banks. The UN Environment Programme helps us find donors who want to contribute to the fund, such as the World Bank, the Green Climate Fund for the financing of the Paris Climate Accord, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but also large clients of Rabobank.”

“We are in talks with about twenty large clients”

- Bas Rüter, Director of Sustainability at Rabobank

Rabobank is now writing an investment memorandum on how the fund will operate and recruiting an independent fund manager. “We are also in talks with about twenty large clients who have projects that might be eligible for joint financing by the bank and the fund,” says Rüter. “Our ambition is to have the fund in place and to begin with the first projects in Brazil and Indonesia this year.”

Click below to read the full SDG Report 2017.