Letter from Inez: February 2014

Thursday 13th February 2014

GBA Newsletter

I read with delight last month’s announcement at the World Economic Forum in Davos that Westpac was ranked #1 in the ‘Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World’. The news led us to research the link between Corporate Sustainability and a company taking a strategic approach to women. Evidence for this link is strong and it is mounting, and it is no wonder that Westpac is in the lead.

Westpac’s approach to sustainability is about identifying the ‘sweet spot’ around creating business value and community value. According to Siobhan Toohill, Head of Group Sustainability and Community, Westpac’s Women’s Market program Ruby, exemplifies this approach. ‘Ruby really walks the talk for us. It demonstrates our commitment to supporting women customers, helping connect them with each other, creating that supportive ecosystem.’ Westpac mirrors this internally by creating a supportive environment for women employees, not only setting stretch goals for women in leadership (50 percent of branch managers and above will be women by 2017) but also by taking care of other gender gaps, such as ensuring women staff have the same accumulated wealth as men staff. It is the alignment between supporting women internally and externally that analysts are looking for, as shareholders increasingly understand the value it creates.

Investors are of course increasingly interested in corporate sustainability and women investors are a significant driver. As Joe Keefe, CEO of Pax World, recently commented in the Wall Street Journal, women now make up nearly half of the world’s millionaires. And women tend to gravitate towards companies whose ways of doing business are consistent with their own principles and beliefs.

Enabling banks to support women entrepreneurs is a key component of IFC’s approach to sustainable business development in emerging markets. In this issue, Andrew McCartney, IFC’s Global Product Specialist for Gender Finance and SME Banking, shares important rationale for why focusing on women has to be integral to a bank’s sustainability strategy while offering invaluable counsel on lessons learned from over 20 banks the IFC has worked with on implementing a Women’s Market Program.

We are proud to have many banks in the GBA that score high marks on sustainability. This month, we welcome Banco Pichincha, a leader in corporate sustainability in the banking sector in Ecuador, to the Alliance. Banco Pichincha was the first Ecuadorian bank to sign the United Nations Environment Program Finance Initiative (UNEP-FI) as well as the UN Global Compact principles. We are even prouder that the Alliance is leading the innovation around how corporations can deliver real and lasting value to the women of this world.

Inez Murray, Chief Executive Officer
Global Banking Alliance for Women