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Commonwealth Bank: Sustainable business practices a constant focus

In November 2015 the Commonwealth Bank announced new and updated environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies and practices to support its efforts to make a positive impact through the way they do business.  This new initiatives paid off, with Commonwealth Bank named the most sustainable company in Australia, and the most sustainable bank in the world in the 2016 Global 100 (G100) Most Sustainable Corporations Index.

Announced in January 2016 at the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, by research firm Corporate Knights, the annual G100 Index considers a broad range of sustainable business factors including how organisations balance environmental, social, and governance performance while delivering superior returns to investors.

Impressively, Commonwealth Bank achieved number four in the global index, from 4,609 companies assessed. This makes it the highest Australian corporation, and the number one bank in the world.

For more information on how CommBank did in the 2015-2016 financial year regarding environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility, visit the 2016 CommBank Corporate Responsibility Report.

Canstar caught up with Kylie Macfarlane, General Manager, Corporate Responsibility, Commonwealth Bank, for a Q&A on the initiaitves that saw the Commonwealth Bank success.

Q: You have improved your G100 ranking this year – and it is a huge achievement to be place so high on a worldwide list. What are the sustainability initiatives over the past 12 months that you are proudest of?

A: Supporting sustainable business practices is something that we focus on every day and it is built over years of sustained and continued improvement. However we are particularly pleased with our progress in a number of areas. For example:

  • On diversity and inclusion we achieved our target of having 35 per cent women in senior management roles. Now we have set ourselves a new target to achieve 40 per cent by 2020.
  • We published our Human Rights Position Statement last year.
  • We further enhanced our responsible investment frameworks in 2015 with our Wealth Management division developing a Responsible Investing Framework which integrates Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) considerations into the division’s investment practices.
  • Plus also we provide industry-leading disclosure of the financed carbon emissions arising from our business lending portfolio, and our lending is guided by nine ESG Lending Commitments, developed and published in 2014.

Q: Why is sustainability so important?

A: We see Corporate Responsibility as very much a part of way we do business.  As a major financial institution, we play an important role in enabling economic and social development, supporting jobs, growth, innovation and opportunities for people and businesses. We recognise that the decisions we make have an impact and that we are in a unique position to use our capabilities and resources to make a positive contribution beyond our core business.

Q: Can you share some of the Property Sustainability Strategy goals that you are looking to implement over the next three years?

A: Each year we look for improvement in areas including carbon emissions, waste management, energy and water use. Our domestic carbon emissions have been reduced by almost 40 per cent since 2009.  Through our property portfolio we strive for sustainability. For example, Commonwealth Bank Place is the first Australian building to achieve all 6 Star Green Star across the four aspects: design, construction, interior fit-out and operation performance. It has won 5 international and more than 39 Australian industry awards. As we look to the future, we believe that our move to Australian Technology Park in 2019 will set new benchmarks in property sustainability and functionality.

Q: Does the size of the organisation make it easier or more challenging to achieve sustainability goals?

A: Our size and scale can be both a blessing and challenge. But I am proud to say that the Commonwealth Bank is very focussed on continuing to support, and improve every aspect of Corporate Responsibility strategy because we understand just how important it is to our long term future as a business.

Q: How important is it to have staff engagement and commitment to your goals?

A: Absolutely critical.  Our people are the ones that deliver on our vision to excel at securing and enhancing the financial wellbeing of people, businesses and communities.

You can read more about Commonwealth Bank’s sustainability objectives here and access the full list of 2016 Global 100 (G100) Most Sustainable Corporations Index winners here.

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