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December 10, 2020

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BLKB: Switzerland’s forward-looking bank

BLKB: Switzerland’s forward-looking bank

Marilen Dürr, Head of CSR and Sustainability at BLKB, explains how her bank is systematically addressing how to embed sustainability in all of its business activities. BLKB wants to set a good example and support others on the path to making Switzerland a sustainable business location.

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Marilen Dürr, Head of CSR and Sustainability BLKB

Be it in Parliament, in the media or out on the streets: the importance of sustainability – especially climate change – has increased enormously. Where does BLKB stand on this topic?

It’s true. Sustainability is a topic that has taken on much greater importance in 2020. Having said that, we have been committed to this issue for quite some time now and are seeing that we’re having a broad impact. For BLKB, it’s clear that climate change and the negative effects it has are now a reality. We are faced with these effects, as are all of our stakeholders. We’re convinced that humankind has a significant impact on climate change and therefore see it as our duty to promote and support activities relating to climate protection.

“As Switzerland’s forward-looking bank, we assume responsibility for the people who place their trust in us, for the society in which we live and for the environment that enables us to live”. This is the core message in our corporate mission statement. It underscores the fact that systematically embedding sustainability in our business policy, in our responsibility to society as an employer, and in all the products and services we offer our clients is a necessary consequence of our responsibilities as a company.

As Head of CSR and Sustainability, you play an important role in shaping the bank’s processes. Is there something that you are particularly proud of in this regard?

Yes, the fact that we are continuously making progress in this area and addressing the topic systematically. It makes me extremely proud to I look back at where we were a few years ago and look at us today. Sustainability has been embedded across the entire bank thanks to teamwork. And as a team, we want to continue to work towards ensuring a sustainable future for everyone. This requires a strong commitment from everyone.

I am therefore very pleased that our holistic approach to sustainability is also receiving recognition outside of the bank, and that this summer, for example, we were named the “Best Regional Sustainability Bank Switzerland” by the trade magazine “Capital Finance International”.

I am also pleased with the results of the PACTA study that was launched by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment: we have a very low equity exposure and even lower bond exposure to carbon-intensive sectors, mainly due to our ESG exclusion criteria (including no oil or coal companies, no airlines, etc.). This clearly shows that BLKB’s exclusion criteria, which were introduced years ago, are having an impact in the investment space.

"we have a very low equity exposure and even lower bond exposure to carbon-intensive sectors, mainly due to our ESG exclusion criteria"

And at the moment, I’m particularly proud of our new sustainability magazine “hüt&morn”. The goal of the magazine is to provide food for thought and new ideas, and encourage a constructive dialogue. It is a high-quality print publication (printed on environmentally friendly paper, of course) and deliberately offers readers a different focus during the pandemic, when everyone’s screen time is particularly high.

What are your next goals? What do you want to achieve with and in addition to your work at the bank?

In addition to my work at the bank, I help to raise awareness about sustainability and give lectures at universities about this topic. I also place great importance on networking ideas and people so that sustainable solutions are found and can grow. That’s why I’m involved in INNOVATION BASEL, Smart Regio Basel and womenmatters. This enables me to share my knowledge about innovation and sustainability management. After all, the only way to address this complex topic successfully is by doing so together. womenmatters is especially close to my heart and aims to show that, for example, diversity is also part of comprehensive sustainability management and that it’s not just about environmental topics.

In your opinion, what do banks need to do in order for our financial centre to become a leader in sustainable finance?

Banks have to seriously address the issue. Both within the organisation and with the public. At BLKB, we want to actively encourage this dialogue. We play a role in shaping it and, as a bank, act as a role model in Switzerland and in the sector.

There is not always a clear “right” and “wrong”. You have to weigh social, environmental and economic factors and this can sometimes be very difficult: Rega’s flights are not good from an environmental perspective, but they are extremely important for health and safety. Should we stop funding Rega because of climate considerations? I don’t think so. What’s important is that the issue is being addressed and that banks seriously consider how they can contribute in all areas. Even if we don’t have all the solutions yet, we have to be bold in how we approach the future and try out new things. That’s the only way for us to assume our responsibilities.