Danske Bank recently achieved the Business in the Community CORE Standard for Responsible Business, Northern Ireland’s only corporate responsibility accreditation. Communications Manager Alison Falls outlines why being a responsible business is so important to this local bank.
How seriously does Danske Bank really take corporate responsibility (CR)?
We play a fundamental role in society by running a sound, responsible bank, helping to drive Northern Ireland’s economic growth by lending to people and to businesses.
But being a responsible business is about much more than that; how we do business is as important as the business we do. That’s why CR is truly integrated in our core business through our vision and strategy and is led from the top. Our CEO, Kevin Kingston, is also a board member of Business in the Community and Chair of the bank’s Responsible Business Board.
Is it possible for a bank to be a force for good in society? What is the bank’s approach?
We focus on where we can make a societal impact and have a licence to speak. It’s about impactful, innovative initiatives in every area of the business, from programmes to help fuel growth for small businesses and start-ups, to activities to reduce our environmental footprint, investment in learning and development, employability initiatives and financial confidence education in schools.
Our core business and strategic initiatives align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals to which we can contribute the most, specifically, ‘Quality Education’ and ‘Decent Work and Economic Growth’.
We’ve also developed a digital transformation strategy in response to the new era of Open Banking. Today there are 40 new roles in the bank that didn’t exist a year ago. This creates new areas of expertise we can share for the benefit of society.
Going through the CORE process has given us a valuable framework for continuous improvement – and that puts us in a really strong position to make an even greater positive societal impact moving forward.
Do you see it as important that staff get involved in CR activities?
Yes, and it’s our people who make the real difference by sharing their time and expertise for the benefit of local communities from Lurgan to Limavady and right across Northern Ireland.
We see very high levels of employee engagement with our programmes and positive feedback.
To encourage this, we have our own volunteering programme, Danske Time to Give, which provides employees with up to one day per year to volunteer with any of our community partners. We have delivered over 1,000 volunteering hours already this year.
Are Danske’s CR activities actually making any difference?
Going through the CORE process has helped us recognise the many societal and business benefits of our CR activities, and to tell this story better.
One example is our long-standing charity partner programme, through which our employees have raised over £1.3 million in the last 15 years.
Mental ill health is a fundamental challenge in our society. We believe we can help address the issue for future generations through our strategic partnership with Action Mental Health. That’s why we’re raising money for Healthy Me, a mental health promotion programme delivered in local primary schools. Last year, we raised £70,000, benefiting over 1,450 children and 450 teachers.
Do your customers benefit from these activities?
Yes, we have a very strong customer focus in the bank and are continually looking at ways to help ensure a responsible transition for vulnerable groups to a modern financial infrastructure. For example, we have worked with the Alzheimer’s Society to train more than 130 colleagues as ‘dementia friends’ while another 140 staff received training from the Money Advice Service. We’re helping Action Mental Health’s clients with money advice and fraud sessions. We have a fraud education campaign called Keep it Safe, to help both business and personal customers protect themselves from fraud. We recently became the first ‘Jam Card Friendly’ bank in Northern Ireland, working in partnership with the Now Group.
For more information about Danske’s approach to responsible business visit danskebank.co.uk/responsibility Alison can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org