Corporate Social Responsibility Report 2019
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Interview with the CEO

  • [102-14] Statement from senior decision-maker Statement from senior decision-maker

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  • [102-15] Key impacts, risks and opportunities Key impacts, risks and opportunities

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For us, responsible banking means taking into account a broad and long-term context of our operations. We want economic growth to be inclusive and sustainable.

What were the most important achievements of Santander Bank Polska in 2019? How did you implement the principles of responsible banking in practice?

As the largest private equity bank in Poland, we are a significant participant in social and economic life. We are aware of this responsibility and do not try to avoid it. Therefore, we use our position to contribute to overcoming the challenges facing not only the Polish society and economy, but also the whole world. This is part of our strategy based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which identify the most important and urgent problems to be solved.

For us, responsible banking means taking into account a broad and long-term context of our operations. We want economic growth to be inclusive and sustainable. To achieve our goals, we combat financial exclusion, support entrepreneurs in creating new jobs and facilitate access to education and training, including through our Santander Universidades programme. The principle of sustainable growth, on the other hand, is implemented by promoting environmentally friendly solutions and supporting the transformation of the Polish energy sector.

In 2019, we successfully launched the first ESG-linked (Environmental, Social and Governance) loan on the Polish market, in which the margin depends on the borrower’s achievement of specific social and environmental goals. In June, we updated the package of sectoral and environmental policies and at the same time introduced a new policy relating to the mining and metals industry. The policies regulate, among other things, the rules of financing coal companies, including no new financing for coal mining, total reduction of exposure to coal mining by 2030, reduction of financing for existing coal-fired power plants and no financing for new coal-fired power plant projects.

A very important element of developing our responsible banking agenda is the organizational culture. This includes the mission, vision and values that we are expected to follow on a daily basis. It underpins our responsible banking strategy by focusing not only on ″what″ we do but also ″how″ we do it. We create and promote a diverse, inclusive, engaging and flexible workplace. We continue to work on improving the processes related to addressing social, environmental and management risks, which from a business perspective play an increasingly important role. The improvement of these processes will allow us to increase our involvement, for example in the development of RES in Poland.

What challenges do you think the banking sector will face in the next 2 years? What will be the priority for Santander Bank Polska?

The COVID-19 pandemic came unexpectedly and is now an unprecedented challenge not only for banks but also for other sectors of the economy. The financial resilience but also the business models adopted have been put to the test. In a short period of time we had to revise and adapt our operational procedures to the current situation and needs of our customers or partners. We efficiently switched to the remote operation and service mode and reorganised our activities. We are constantly observing the development of the situation and trying to predict what changes will be brought about by the future. Current experience shows that the digitalization of the economy will be significantly accelerated. In our sector, customers are increasingly choosing online or mobile banking. This trend is reinforced by the experience of the pandemic. However, this does not only concern us. Many sectors will face this challenge.

At present, no one is able to estimate how long the restrictions will remain in place or how long their economic impact will last. We do not even know how long the pandemic will go on. We are therefore focusing on measures that will ensure safety and help our customers and employees to minimise the impact of the pandemic. We actively participate in the implementation of many initiatives proposed by government agencies, and we also initiate our own actions. We realize that this is not the end of the story. We are an institution that has an impact on shaping the so-called ″new normality″ and we will do our best to make it positive for our customers, but also for society as a whole.

One of the pillars of Santander Bank Polska’s strategy is the ″Green Bank″. What projects are the priorities for Santander Bank Polska in this area?

Santander Bank Polska pursues a strategy of responsible banking in which one of the pillars is green finance and organizational changes that allow us to minimize our negative impact on the climate and environment.

We consistently support and invest in sustainable projects. Just to remind you, we were the first commercial bank to issue green bonds worth EUR 137.1 million in 2017. In 2019, we also took part – as a joint bookrunner – in the issue of 10- and 30-year green bonds of the Ministry of Finance worth EUR 2 billion. The funds from the bond issue are allocated, among others, for sustainable agriculture, low-emission means of transport, renewable energy, national parks, afforestation and spoil heaps reclamation.

In April 2019, we joined the Polish Pact for the Sustainable Use of Plastics. It is an initiative that promotes and disseminates good practices so that they become part of everyday business practice of as many companies in Poland as possible. We provide loans and leases supporting energy efficiency. We have also committed ourselves not to finance new coal-fuelled power units. Similarly, we will not lend to new coal mines. By 2030 the bank’s exposure to power coal producers will be reduced to zero.

What is your perception of the role of financial institutions in the transition to a low-carbon economy?

Banks play a crucial role in the process of orderly transition to a low-carbon economy. Santander Bank Polska supports and will continue to support its clients in the course of energy transformation by financing those projects that significantly reduce the negative impact on the environment and society.

Our products and services with a social and environmental profile also serve this purpose. We were the first in Poland to act as coordinator and agent in the consortium during the signing of the aforementioned ESG-linked loan agreement.

These activities are in line with our philosophy of a socially responsible bank. Thanks to proper use of our financial potential, we can not only grow our business, but also contribute to overcoming local, national and, ultimately, global challenges.

For Santander Bank Polska, inclusive banking is very important. What should we know about the bank’s activities in this area?

For many years we have been taking steps to ensure that finances are available for people with different needs, i.e. for all social groups. We are introducing improvements in our products and services by, among others, developing a network of ATMs with a voice service function. Our clients can also do business in Polish sign language through a video channel. We have introduced the possibility of applying, remotely or at branches, for the so-called available documents provided for in the Act, i.e. non-personalised contractual templates or regulations. On the bank’s website, we have created and are successively supplementing the repository of available documents in electronic formats: audio files and video recording in the Polish sign language (PJM). Additionally, the bank being aware of the needs of the environment, offers the possibility to apply for a document in the PDF format with internal, invisible tags. This means that persons with special needs will be able to read it by using commonly available screen reading technology, used also at home. We regularly audit our online and mobile banking platforms for accessibility for persons with disabilities in order to best respond to our clients’ needs.

Enhabcements to products and services under the ″Barrier-Free Service″ programme are not the only activities we undertake. We organize financial workshops, cooperating with schools and universities, integration centers, non-governmental organizations and local authorities. We eagerly participate in local initiatives supporting people with disabilities in their non-professional interests, as well as in those that counteract social and economic exclusion.

Santander Bank Polska is also a signatory to the Diversity Charter. As an employer, we have committed ourselves to implement the provisions of the Charter in our daily operations.

Additionally, through our Differently Abled Project, we want to increase employment of persons with disabilities. We carry out educational activities that activate and support people with disabilities in the work environment.