Committed to Mobilizing Climate Finance to Vulnerable Geographies and Sectors

Which are the main pillars of your CSR and Sustainability strategy?

By approaching sustainability with a 360 degree view, YES BANK aims to be at the forefront of mainstreaming CSR & sustainability within the global financial sector and the broader stakeholder spectrum.

The Bank believes that it has a proactive role to play as a sustainability catalyst to overcome India’s developmental challenges and help it move towards a low carbon growth path. It defines sustainability as “Ensuring long term business success by contributing towards economic & social development, a healthy environment and a stable society”.

Since our inception, Responsible Banking has been a key differentiator of YES BANK and is one of its six strategic pillars, along with Growth, Trust, Human Capital and Technology. The mission of Responsible Banking is to use innovative business solutions to create stakeholder value and to ensure that sustainability principles are integrated with the core business strategy and processes at the Bank. Towards this, our focus lies in building innovative models to engage with external and internal stakeholders and nurturing these relationships to create innovative, scalable and financially viable approaches towards national development.

This strategy is driven at the highest level by the board, including the Managing Director & CEO, who review and approve the Bank’s policies & activities in CSR & Sustainable Development. The Bank’s CSR and sustainability focus areas are in complete alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement.

What have been some of the greatest challenges in realising your CSR and Sustainability goals in the past year, and how has your company overcome them?

Although YES BANK has made significant strides over the last few years, we are always trying to scale up our impact across the stakeholder spectrum. With our continued CSR and sustainability action, we make sure that we are also in alignment with what our stakeholders expect of us, and we undertake periodic materiality assessments within and outside the organization to assess our material issues, which may change over time and may also require us to re-align our CSR and sustainability goals.

One of challenges of implementing Community Development initiatives in India is monitoring. YES BANK has an elaborate monitoring system and a strict due diligence mechanism is in place for all CSR projects and Board members of CSR Committee are slated to travel to the project locations to get updates and ongoing feedback from the ground on implementation of the projects.

As a bank, financing for climate action is a strategic focus area for us, and we have striven to create new market opportunities to finance India’s massive developmental needs. 2015 was a significant year for us, as we launched India’s first green bonds, raising INR 1000 Crores, which would be used to fund clean energy in India.

We have seen that there is a large gap in the existing level of sensitization among bankers, and risk professionals in India in general, on ESG parameters, and we need professionals who can undertake project assessments on these. At YES BANK, we recognized this gap and since 2012, have been engaging with risk professionals from the BFSI space, and other industry professionals, on environmental and social risks and training to them integrate it in their decision making.

Keeping in mind the targets set in the Paris accord what do you see on the horizon for corporate sustainability initiatives? How can companies and government work together to achieve sustainability and CSR goals?

2015 has been a historical year, with 195 nations coming together to sign Paris Agreement that will guide the global movement towards a low carbon growth pathway. The global financial community will have to play a crucial role in realising the target of global temperature rise to well below 20C by financing climate risk mitigation and adaptation projects across the world.

On the occasion of the historic COP21 Agreement at Paris, YES Bank is pleased to communicate in response to its climate action that it has mobilised USD 5 Billon by 2020 towards low carbon infrastructure development in India. There is now a greater need, and an opportunity, to mobilize funds, both CSR and as investment, into achieving India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions through collaboration and developing low carbon business models with businesses, Governments and civil society.

Going forward, I believe sustainable development would be at the centre of business agendas of organisations for sustained economic growth. Even before the historic SDGs or COP21 agreement were adopted, the global corporate sector was realigning its business models with the global sustainable development agenda. At YES BANK, we are working with governments, corporate peers, communities and civil society organizations to action these goals, through our business products and services, CSR agenda or as a thought leader.

What are your goals for 2016 and your priorities for the year?

2015 was a very exciting year, for me personally, and for us at YES BANK, as we witnessed how the world can overcome its differences to commit together to achieve our common developmental goals. At YES Bank, our sustainability and CSR agenda has a strong realignment with the SDGs, such as SDG 6 – Clean water and sanitation, SDG 2 – zero hunger, and we are very strongly aligned with SDG 13 – Climate action.

In prioritising our climate actions, we are committed to mobilizing climate finance to vulnerable geographies & sectors; collaborate with internal & external stakeholders for greater emphasis for mainstreaming banking to the grassroots of India. On the occasion of COP21, YES Bank took a commitment to –

Target funding of 5,000 MW of clean energy
Gradually increase percentage of renewable energy in its power portfolio
Contribute towards creating a carbon sink by planting two million trees
Touch100 million lives through its safe and clean drinking water program
Offset Carbon Emissions of the Bank’s operations

During the year, we are continuing to deliver on our key CSR and sustainability goals, and looking to meet the targets we have set for ourselves. To give you a few examples, under our Water Security CSR initiative, we had provided access to safe and clean drinking water to 62,500 people in FY 2014-15 and are aiming to touch over ten times that number in FY 2015-16. Under our skill building and entrepreneurship initiative, we are aiming to reach over 10,000 farmers and youth in 15-16, and touch over 8 lakh lives through YES COMMUNITY, our flagship engagement initiative.

We will continue to try to scale up our engagement with corporate partners and peers, civil society, Governments, and our Implementation partners, for achieving our common sustainability goals, and leveraging the development potential of India.

In conversation with Ms Namita Vikas is Group President and Country Head – Responsible Banking at YES BANK. (Original Post)