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"There is a need to change conventional perspectives of business" Namita Vikas, CSO, YES BANK

Jan 30, 2013

Chief Sustainability Officer of YES BANK, Namita Vikas talks to OneWorld South Asia about her organisation's Responsible Banking initiative, and the many ways YES BANK is making sustainability its priority.

Namita Vikas

OneWorld South Asia: YES Bank is a new age bank with a pronounced sustainability portfolio and image.As the Chief Sustainability Officer, how challenging is it to improve upon its enviable accomplishments in this sphere?

Namita Vikas: Since sustainability is built into the structure and DNA of YES BANK through Responsible Banking, one of the six strategic key pillars of the Bank, a strong foundation has already been laid for further integrating it into the management matrix at every level. The Responsible Banking practice is motivated towards developing innovative business solutions to social and environmental challenges. We have also instituted specialised verticals such as, agri-business and rural banking, microfinance institutions group, inclusive and social banking, sustainable investment banking and socially responsible investing that are equipped with domain experts to create and service new market opportunities. The Responsible Banking Unit continually works in close association with other parts of the Bank creating an effective network of sustainable business solutions to address developmental concerns.

While this has built a strong foundation, the task is uphill and therefore assuming sustainability prioritisation is extremely important. Towards this, there are several areas that need to be evolved in order to deepen integration and embed sustainability across the organisations with a “Board Room to Copy Room” approach. Our priorities are aspects like improving our GHG Accounting System by linking it directly to operation cost management and resource optimisation, strengthening the environmental and social policies, implementation of strategic Employee Volunteering platforms, and improving our sustainability disclosures, with the aim of releasing a third-party assured sustainability report.

OWSA: How does it make business sense when your competition in India does not put any premium on sustainability?

NV: Demonstrating triple-bottom-line impacts is a way to enhance shareholder value and can improve a firm’s access to capital and to international markets. Many businesses still do not set targets on their carbon emissions, resource consumption or waste reduction. This renders them inadequately prepared in the face of an impending global resource crunch and national legislations. Internally, the most significant environmental impact within YES BANK would be the carbon emissions arising from energy use. Almost 2/3rd of the cumulative “emissions” by the Bank is by way of energy use. This knowledge is a powerful tool. Reduction in energy use not only mitigates impact on the environment by improving efficiency but is a very effective cost management tool for banks.

YES BANK has adopted a knowledge-driven approach to offer financial solutions, which go beyond the traditional realm of banking. We are committed to supporting the sustainable growth and development of sunrise sectors like infrastructure, food and agri-business, telecommunications, information technology, life sciences, renewable energy, media & entertainment, manufacturing and textiles, among others –whereby we are able to generate sustainable profits through innovative solutions. We believe integrating sustainability within business practices has definitely helped us in our bottom line and created a differentiator for us in the marketplace.

OWSA: Please share one of YES Bank’s path breaking projects that has impacted lives?

NV: YES MONEY Domestic Remittance Service, the Remittance Knowledge Bridge is a multi-channel, multi-platform banking product suite focusing on remittances across India through any commercial Bank. This platform synergises the market resources available in form of PC/Internet connected retail/kirana shops and encapsulates them as a Business Correspondent partner of YES BANK. The Bank initially tied up with about 11 BC partners who offered this Domestic Remittance service and integrated them on a unified platform. Till now, we have around 3.8 lakh customers availing this service.

OWSA: You will be a part of the CEO Roundtable being organised by TERI. To what extent can meets like the DSDS help spread the word on CSR/ Sustainability?

NV: Yes, I am not only participating at the World CEO Sustainability Summit, but also speaking at the first Plenary on operationalising sustainability within the value chain and then making a detailed YES BANK case study presentation at the breakaway session. Events like the DSDS and WCSS are useful to bring out the mind set change that is the need today. Issues of sustainability are fairly new to India and an integrated approach needs to be defined. I strongly believe that such initiatives do bring to focus the need to change conventional perspectives on business management in the broader context of social inequality and exponential environmental degradation. We have also witnessed a growing interest in our sustainability practices amongst all our stakeholders as a result of our successes, and we feel that platforms like the DSDS provide us with an opportunity to share our experiences and perspective with the broader community. Real impact can only be made collectively and the DSDS is a forum that can facilitate linkages that can help promote a shift to a sustainable economy.

OWSA: Anything else?

NV: I believe as a Bank our role is catalytic and therefore it is necessary for us to go beyond pure lending in fuelling sustainability in India. Pro-activeness in the sustainability space is very important for Banks as they are intermediaries to economic growth. As catalysts, financial institutions can have far-reaching positive impacts. You would agree that in order to demonstrate the business case for sustainability, it is imperative for businesses to link sustainability with stakeholder value creation. YES BANK practices this in totality and I firmly believe that this would make our own business long term and sustainable.

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