ESG performance as important as financial performance: Elliott

If you want to be in the business of profitability you must be in the business of sustainability, ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott says, at its inaugural ESG briefing.

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Elliott took investors through how the bank is thinking about, and responding to, external social and environmental challenges, including a notable spike in gender diversity at the leadership level and the work being done to rebuild the bank’s reputation as a fair and responsible business. 

"It's a really strong improvement and we're pretty proud of that. We've got to continue that trajectory.”

“I think if you want to be in the business of long term sustainable profitability or shareholder value creation for the long term you have to be mindful of the impact that you're having on other parts of the community,” he said.  

“I think people sometimes get confused that we do sustainability at the expense of profits. I don't see it as that. I see them as completely coherently aligned.”

Public disclosure of the bank’s performance against measurable sustainability targets is, according to Elliott, an important part of holding itself to account with all stakeholders. 

Speaking to bluenotes on video, Elliott said the bank was pleased with the bank’s efforts in some areas, but acknowledged it is still grappling with more complicated issues. Credit cards used for gambling is one example.  

According to ANZ’s latest ESG briefing, the bank increased its representation of women in leadership positions to 32.2 per cent in July 2018, as part of its goal to reach 34.1 per cent by 2020.

“That means we've seen a 1.1per cent uplift in women in leadership,” Elliott said. “The absolute number is nowhere near good enough… but it's a really strong improvement and we're pretty proud of that. We've got to continue that trajectory. “

The report has helped enable the social and economic participation 550,000 as part of its goal to help one million by 2020 and is on track to fund and facilitate $A8.3 billion in low carbon and sustainable solutions, as part of its goal to reach $A15 billion by 2020.

“We have done incredibly well in terms of our commitment towards sustainable finance,” Elliott said. “We had a $A10 billion goal to finance sustainable energy and we've now lifted that to $15 billion. The actual amount we're doing is accelerating so it feels really good.”

Elliott said another point he was really proud of was the interest-free loans ANZ was offering in New Zealand to assist mortgage customers damp-proof their homes.

Not everything was bright – Elliott admitted weakness around its goals in helping customers use ANZ’s products responsibly.

“Credit cards being an obvious one and, in particular, people who may have an issue or struggling with gambling,” he said. “How do we do the right things so that we don't allow them to use our product to get in harm’s way?”

“We haven't done as well on that as I would have liked. We would have loved to be able to solve that, if you will, but we've made really good progress.”

“So I think even the things we've not succeeded on, where we have fallen short, I believe we're making progress.“

Andrew Cornell is bluenotes managing editor

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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