Rhetoric and Realities
Edited by Regine Barth and Franziska Wolff
Chapter 7: CSR in the European Banking Sector: Evidence from a Survey
Federica Viganò and Daniele Nicolai1 INTRODUCTION 7.1 According to literature, the banking sector has considered and reacted to the issue of sustainability relatively slowly, despite its high exposure to related risks caused by its intermediary role in the economy. The relevant literature from 1990 to 2000 shows that banks began to address sustainability by considering environmental issues first and social issues second (Bouma et al. 2001; Jeucken 2001, 2002). The prominent initial interest for environmental issues was a consequence of the direct risks banks could be held liable for, such as polluting activities. Only in the later years the indirect risks, such as reputation and the responsibility of banks related to lending activities, were duly considered by the sector, mainly because the concept of risk management, traditionally focused on financial risks, extended to environmental and social risks related to the investments made. Lending money to clients with dubious sustainability performances constitutes a reputational risk, which can lead to negative repercussions throughout the markets.2 Direct and indirect sustainability impact, measures to enhance societal benefits while limiting negative externalities, and motivations and policies of the banking sector have been explored by the survey presented hereafter. It was conducted among 17 European banks committed to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), in countries where the sector is rather developed.3 It provides reliable information on how the sector is interpreting the challenging issues of sustainability and how it is dealing with the societal impact of CSR. The sample includes mainly large groups; the selection criteria preferred...
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