In our report Building open and resilient communities for an inclusive society, we set out our vision on social inclusion. We spoke about this with our Chief Executive Officer, Jeroen Rijpkema.
Why is social inclusion a priority of Triodos Bank?
Our mission is anchored in our work towards a society in which human dignity is central. Everyone should be able to live and develop in freedom without restrictions, but of course within planetary boundaries. Unfortunately, we have to conclude that this is not a given for everyone because of inequality and discrimination.
We are confronted with this on a daily basis. The war in Ukraine has destroyed the lives of many thousands of civilians and soldiers. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the most vulnerable worldwide due to structural shortcomings in society. The Black Lives Matter movement is necessary to help us all understand that racism is still a part of everyday life for many. And the current rising energy and food prices affect the most vulnerable worldwide.
As long as there is social inequality, Triodos Bank wants to change this by using money from savers and investors consciously for initiatives that promote social inclusion. Especially now that society is in transition to a sustainable, regenerative economy, we must ensure that everyone can and will be included.
These are major societal challenges. How can we change this?
The complexity of our societal problems can be overwhelming. That is why we have created this vision document: to offer more guidance for everyone who wants to contribute to promoting social inclusion. Also for Triodos Bank itself. The bottom line is that there needs to be a fundamental change in values, culture and structures. It is and has to be an ongoing joint effort of all of us, government, companies and individuals.
How does this translate into practice at Triodos Bank?
Triodos Bank wants to use its financing and investments to enable people to take matters into their own hands and contribute to initiatives that stimulate an inclusive society. On top of that, we want to challenge dominant values and structures that obstruct an inclusive society.
To mention a few examples, we focus on initiatives that promote the healthy development of children and on a just and inclusive transition to a sustainable, regenerative economy with access to affordable and sustainable housing. We want to make the labour market more inclusive and make financial services available to everyone.
A good example in this respect is our recently launched Future Generations Fund, launched by Triodos Investment Management in collaboration with UNICEF. This fund enables our clients to contribute with their investment to improving the well-being and development of children worldwide. Seperately, with our financial inclusion funds, we invest globally in institutions that make financial services available to everyone. We finance companies that make fair trade products and that make the labour market, healthcare or education accessible to people who are exposed to the risk of being left out. We also provide loans to social housing projects, and we take into account the energy label of a home when giving a mortgage to prevent over-lending.
How important is it that an organisation itself is socially inclusive in order to really put its money where its mouth is?
Very important. An inclusive and diverse labour market is crucial to give everyone the equal opportunity to participate actively in society. It is a precondition to make everyone feel welcome. That should first and foremost start with ourselves. In my opinion, we can do better, also Triodos Bank needs to become more inclusive itself. We are working on this with various internal diversity initiatives and, for example, an analysis into the existence of possible differences in pay between men and women, which of course should not exist. We owe it to each other to pursue continuous improvement in this respect.
It is a learning path for all of us how to best include as many people in society and to offer everyone the same opportunities. We will have to continuously reflect on our actions and make changes where needed. And for the financial sector specifically: we must constantly ask ourselves whether our financing and investments contribute to a socially inclusive society. By using money consciously, together we can make a difference and create positive impact.
We invite everyone to join us on this journey, to give feedback, to challenge and to bring new insights. I am convinced that if we all participate and work together, we can and will achieve a more inclusive society.