LAST week, we wrote about how the Ayala group has aligned itself to the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The conglomerate decided to zero in on three key areas -- 1) marginalization 2) large untapped potential for our human capital, and 3) irresponsible growth leading to long-term environmental damage -- where Ayala's business units can generate the most significant and lasting impact.

Here is how it works at the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI).

Cezar "Bong" P. Consing, BPI president, said: "More than just attaining financial returns, BPI strives to achieve sustainability by creating shared value for its clients, shareholders, and society as a whole.

"For BPI, sustainability means providing opportunities for financial wellness for individuals, communities, and businesses from different economic backgrounds, as well as financing geared towards a greener economy and society."

BPI's Sustainability Strategy Framework revolves around: 1) financial inclusion and wellness 2) scaling up enterprises 3) sustainability development financing 4) risk-managed delivery infrastructure 5) empowering people and society 6) using resources efficiently and 7) building trust.

To ensure proper execution of its sustainability strategy, the Ayala-led bank has created the BPI Sustainability Office (BSO) -- composed of a dedicated team of people whose main objective is to help build a culture of sustainability among all unibankers and the wider community. BSO also monitors, measures and reports its sustainability performance to regulators.

Maricris L. San Diego, executive director of BPI Foundation and the bank's chief sustainability officer, elaborates on BPI's initiatives:

"We have a Sustainable Development Finance group which supports SDG and Renewable Energy projects such as solar power, biofuel projects, wind energy as well as green buildings.

"BPI promotes investments in businesses, industries, and projects that contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

"We do this in the form of loans, capital raising, leasing arrangements, technical support, and client education.

In 2017, the bank financed P201.8 billion projects identified to directly contribute to the SDGs. This more than doubled the following year.

According to Bong Consing: "As of end 2018, BPI had P170 billion in outstanding loans for agribusiness, P197 billion in outstanding loans that promote sustainable urban and countryside development, and P126 billion in outstanding loans for renewable energy, energy efficiency and climate resilience."

San Diego adds:

"We are again embarking on a Climate Risk Assessment Study to assess risks and vulnerabilities of key cities around the country as well as their adaptive capacity. This will be done with the WWF as our partner. We will also engage LGUs, the private sector, business chambers and the constituents. This will run for 4 years, starting 2019, and will cover 16 cities."

Financial inclusion is a key pillar of sustainability. "We support livelihood and entrepreneurship through BPI Direct BanKo (a wholly-owned subsidiary) which supports self-employed micro-entrepreneurs. BanKo is set to reach 300 branches nationwide by the end of 2019. We also support SMEs through BPI's Business Banking."

"All these are part of BPI's financial inclusion thrust aimed at ensuring that 25 per cent of the unbanked sector can have access to BPI's products and services," San Diego said.

For its part, BPI Foundation supports MSMEs through livelihood interventions (BPI Tech Voc and Show Me Teach Me Program) as well as social entrepreneurs through capacity building, and through social, intellectual and financial capital.

San Diego explains another linchpin of sustainability:

"We are embarking on a bank-wide digitalization program to future proof the bank and to provide efficiencies and conveniences for our various stakeholders."

Through different engagement projects, BPI endeavors to build a culture that encourages practicing a sustainable lifestyle and workplace.

Among these initiatives are : 1) learning sessions on sustainability 2) sustainability exposure trips 3) recyclables and refillable fairs (BPI partnered with Globe to help build schools in Aklan through recycling of donated phones) 4) SDG 101 (where unibankers are drilled on the UN Sustainable Development Goals) 5) campaigns to reduce electricity, water and paper consumption in the workplace 6) intensive leadership training for identified next generation leaders and 7) adoption of best practices in the work place, including flexible work schedules and offsite work hubs closer to home.

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