Communicating sustainability benefits to stakeholders a key challenge: YES BANK

Namita Vikas, senior president and chief sustainability officer at YES BANK,

Namita Vikas, senior president and chief sustainability officer at YES BANK, on various sustainability initiatives adopted by YES BANK for 2013 and their plans for the New Year.

Briefly describe your sustainability activities for 2013

The two-fold mission of Responsible Banking at YES BANK is to link sustainable development with stakeholder value creation through innovative business solutions and weave sustainability principles into YES BANK’s core business strategy and processes to deliver positive socio-environmental impact.

To that end, YES BANK’s  priorities for 2013 have been stakeholder engagement, sustainability research, measuring and reducing resource consumption, promoting YES i CARE—our employee volunteering program, scaling up YES COMMUNITY—our community engagement initiative, reporting our progress on sustainability to the wider stakeholder community, and sharing best practices to help shape policy in the banking sector.

This approach has helped us identify new opportunities to integrate sustainability, both within the bank and within the ecosystem. Our strategy therefore drives business success while simultaneously contributing to India’s social and economic development.

How far have you succeeded in meeting your sustainability target in 2013?

YES BANK has been quite successful in meeting various sustainability targets in 2013. Specifically, we worked towards driving implementation through the Environment Management Policy and reporting through the publication of a GRI certified sustainability report. We have also voluntarily submitted the Communication on Progress (CoP) to the United Nations Global Compact.

On the research front, we have released two knowledge papers: “Operationalizing Sustainability in Value Chain” and “Low Carbon Industrial Growth in India” with an aim to encourage mainstreaming of sustainability principles within the Indian context.

Namita Vikas, senior president and chief sustainability officer at YES BANK,
Stakeholder engagement too has been scaled up. We have ramped up our employee volunteering and YES COMMUNITY initiatives to engage meaningfully with employees and local communities around issues like preventive healthcare, education, youth development, elderly care, energy conservation, environment and water harvesting.  While YES BANK employees are registered and have expressed interest to serve the Bank’s NGO partners, YES BANK branches have reached out to and impact local communities through YES COMMUNITY, since 2008.

The Bank’s sustainability initiatives have been recognized at various national and international platforms.  In the last year, YES BANK has received Certificate of Commendation from Confederation of Indian Industry (CII-ITC) Center of Excellence for Sustainable Development and Karlsruhe Sustainable Finance award from the City of Karlsruhe in Germany.

What were the major concerns while delivering on these goals?

There are two major concerns in integrating sustainability in financial institutions. One is to understand ‘Sustainability’ and communicate the concept and its benefits to various stakeholders in technical lexicon. The other significant challenge has been to integrate the Environment and Social Policy (ESP) in lending decision-making process. Since sustainability is in its nascent stages in India, we need to encourage banking institutions to integrate Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) parameters in their lending process.

With the bank’s core competency in sustainable finance, the Responsible Banking team has developed a knowledge platform—Sustainability Series—to train finance professionals on expanding their risk management skills to incorporate environmental and social risks in their decisions in debt, equity and insurance sectors.

What are your sustainability goals for 2014?

In line with our broader organizational Version 2.0 goals of establishing 750 branches, 1500 ATMs and 9,000 employees across India, we are actively scaling up our sustainable finance practice to be a part of India’s growth story. These goals not only help in accelerating growth, but also help in addressing social and environmental concerns. Case in point being, our partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to establish a private equity fund to invest in the healthcare, tourism, education, affordable housing, and agribusiness sectors in the North Eastern states of India. We are also working to scale up our YES COMMUNITY initiative, by partnering with public and private institutions to establish relationships with local communities.

Where do you get funds for such initiatives?

Since Responsible Banking is a dedicated 16-member unit, based out of Mumbai and Delhi, there is an allocated budget to execute strategy and implement the initiatives.  Rana Kapoor, our founder, managing director and chief executive officer, shares the vision of contributing to India’s development and in the last year, YES BANK allocated funds towards community development initiatives which include YES COMMUNITY and contributed towards YES BANK’s development arm—YES FOUNDATION.

Are you able to reap tangible benefits from sustainability initiatives like green energy solutions?

We have reaped tangible benefits from implementing sustainability initiatives. We view climate change as an opportunity and believe it could spur the development of and promote the usage of cleaner and newer technologies into mainstream markets.  To that end, our active investment and advisory portfolio covers clean energy, transportation, water, and waste management space. In addition to financing wind farm and solar projects, our Corporate Finance team worked with various partners to setup a solid waste management facility. In sum, our strategy has helped us mitigate risk as well as identify new opportunities within the sustainability spectrum.

For YES BANK, adopting best practices in resource consumption and waste management is critical to business operations. It not only lowers operational costs but also reduces our carbon footprint. Further, since the Bank is in a phase of rapid expansion, it is cognizant of its increasing consumption and waste footprint. Hence, the Bank focuses on improving its operational efficiency and optimizing resource optimization through initiatives like ‘War on Waste’. This initiative targets the entire operational spectrum of banking operations.  We have partnered with Green-O-Bin, government approved vendor, to manage paper waste in our corporate offices. We have also tied up with Grow Trees to plant over 7,000 trees across India. These efforts, in sum, are part of our ethos to raise awareness and protect the environment while simultaneously optimizing our own resource consumption.

Rajani Baburajan

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