Toespraak Chris Buijink SER-debat klimaatverandering
The report of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate has a simple, but powerful message: economic growth and action on climate change can be achieved together. The trade-off between economic growth and fighting climate change is a false dilemma, it says.
Dutch banks have embraced sustainability and we welcome the report
Dutch banks all have sustainability strategies and policies. For banks the sustainability agenda is multi-faceted:
- it is about managing risks; understanding the impact of climate change, globalization, value chain responsibilities, social dilemmas and their impact on clients and the bank’s balance sheet
- it is also about new opportunities. Sustainability will be achieved by embracing new technologies, new business models and new partnerships. Banks can play a role in all of these
- it is also about reputation management. Banks have a broad and diverse range of stakeholders who not necessarily have the same expectations or even demands about how banks should contribute to the transition towards a sustainable economy. It is important to know what you stand for when dealing with sometimes opposing opinions of stakeholders.
Whereas Dutch banks individually contribute to sustainability in ways that fit their unique positions, they are all committed to the overall sustainability vision of the Dutch Banking Association. And some of the key elements of this vision are aligned with your report. Energy is one of the report’s main issues: We want to contribute to the Dutch energy agreement. The report elaborates on the role of cities, we are looking for innovative solutions for greening the Dutch housing market (stock?). And in a global economy it is important that we recognize challenges in value chains and the value chain responsibilities of the various players.
The sustainability transition comes with significant challenges
As a Dutch banking sector we support the overall objectives of your report. However, we also experience some challenges in practice.
- The transition towards a sustainable economy would ideally be supported by a joined agenda of key stakeholders. However, in practice we see some challenges on national level to align politics, regulation, client expectations and NGO agendas and our own position. On a European level, let alone a global level these challenges are even more significant. This implies a risk that initiatives which are good in themselves, are less effective because of lack of alignment with other initiatives. Fragmentation can result in loss of efficiency and effectiveness.
- Any transition comes with turbulence and even shocks. So whereas the longer term picture is clear, short term issues can be dominant. How do we deal with (potential) “stranded assets”, who is taking the losses? How do we deal with financing of innovative technologies (banks can only play their own role, others will have to provide equity and risk capital)? New types of jobs are great, but how we secure the education and training of the current work force to avoid the loss of current social capital?
- In a time where we are faced with huge economic and social challenges and many citizens and employees are insecure and afraid of losing rights or benefits it will require great leadership and compelling stories to get the buy in for the transition we are looking for.
As Dutch banking sector we want to actively cooperate on the transition towards a sustainable society and economy
Dutch banks want to play their role in the transition towards a sustainable economy. And I don’t want to be defensive on where we are. Banks are trying hard to meet new needs, but this is not easy given the mainstream agenda they are faced with. We can do more, want to do more; but have learned the hard way that a transition can better take place in orchestrated steps, than in a bigger bang. I believe, the best way to proceed is building partnerships, cooperating across industries, across constituencies and across geographies. Given our intermediary role and networks we believe we can play a in bringing parties together. We may be a bit more short on capital than 10 years ago, we still have a strong social capital, knowledge and network which we are trying to put to work every day.
Bob Geldof once famously remarked: “We have to recognise the Zeitgeist before it kicks our ass.”
The Dutch banking sector recognises the need for the transition the report promotes and we want to play our part.