Irma Acosta Pedregal
Corporate Responsibility and Image

Social Entrepreneurship Spreads Financial Values

Wed, 02/19/2014 - 12:08

Mexico’s largest bank, BBVA Bancomer, did not simply want to follow the examples set by others. In 2008, when it started its corporate sustainable responsibility (CSR) division, Bancomer centered it around the twin concepts of responsibility and  reputation. The first sought to make Bancomer responsible, in all aspects of its operations, while its actual CSR programs were linked to its core business. For example, the bank focused heavily on financial education and social entrepreneurship. Irma Acosta Pedregal, Bancomer’s Director of Corporate Responsibility and Image, explains that social entrepreneurship became a particular priority after the bank started the Momentum Project.

The Momentum Project, currently operating in Mexico, Spain and Peru, aims to train and provide support to entrepreneurs and allow their initiatives to evolve in a socially and ecologically friendly way. “We see a need to educate these types of entrepreneurs, as they sometimes lack the right business approach for their company. They need to understand cash flow management, marketing models and financing,” says Acosta Pedregal. Momentum allows companies to accelerate their growth and Bancomer taps up the skill set and experience of its retired workers to help participating companies develop their business models. The program has been having an impact since the beginning. “In the first year, we had 112 participants, from which 10 were selected to work on the steps already outlined,” explains Acosta Pedregal. Momentum was also created with two important partnerships, New Ventures, a top Mexican start-up accelerator company, and EGADE, one of Mexico’s most famous business schools. From the outset, Bancomer sought to ensure that sustainability was not being forced on the company, to avoid such practices being viewed as an annoyance by staff. Instead, it sought to ensure that sustainability was incorporated seamlessly and that the development of the new division could be tracked at every stage. Although support within Bancomer for this sustainable change came from the top, it was important for the bank to involve its employees lower down the corporate ladder. “We had 20 sessions with the employees and an online course to target sustainability issues depending on different regions. Every new employee also has to go through a corporate responsibility workshop,” says Acosta Pedregal.

The value of Bancomer’s CSR division has always been measured from the bank’s financial perspective. Bancomer tackles its sustainability initiatives as it would a business model, by quantifying them and seeking to make them profitable. Acosta Pedregal explains that giving such initiatives a precise value allows Bancomer to create tangible indicators and track the various impacts its initiatives are having.

As the financial sector is not directly a highly pollutant sector,Bancomerdecidedtofocusontheindirectchanges it could make. BBVA adopted the Equator Principles in 2004 as a crucial commitment to willingly integrate their activities into more sustainable markets. Projects depend strongly on financing and as an Equator Principle Financing Institution, the bank avoids being part of potentially damaging projects to society and the environment. The bank also generated a global eco-efficiency plan for 2008-2012, which is now in its second iteration. Having created a benchmark to establish what this plan should include for all the countries in which Bancomer works, the focus became to reduce the bank’s carbon footprint worldwide. This took into account the use of water, energy and paper, CO2 emissions and environmental certifications. The company has obtained ISO 14001 certifications for some buildings it already owned and will obtain LEED certification in countries in which new headquarters are being built, such as Mexico and Spain. A commitment to a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions was fulfilled by cutting back on travel trips and increasing the number of videoconferences and telecommuting.

Bancomer has placed a particular focus on certifiable buildings, vowing that 20% of its employees will work in buildings possessing ISO 14001 certification, covering 10 of its buildings in Mexico. The company’s flagship projects will be focused on LEED, however. “Mexico City will see Torre Bancomer with a capacity for 4,500 people and with LEED Gold certification. The operations center will house 4,200 people and will have LEED Silver certification. We have also made some changes in the installations of old bank branches to introduce technology that fits our goals,” states Acosta Pedregal. The second phase of its global eco-efficiency plan has targeted a reduction of 3% for energy, 3% for paper and 6% for CO2 emissions. The process of building these two new buildings and getting them ready is what has led to the bank not making particularly aggressive sustainability goals for the moment. Migrating over 7,000 employees once the buildings are ready will take between 12 and 18 months, and Bancomer knows this will lead to a rise in its energy consumption. To mitigate this, the company is working on developing its own wind farm, scheduled to be in operation in 2015.