Welcome from Richie Boucher, Group CEO and Audrey Nolan, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility & Reporting
Richie Boucher, Group Chief Executive, with Joanna Hearne, Co-Founder of agri startup Haysaver, at the opening of the Bank of Ireland Workbench in Trinity College, Dublin
Three years ago we commenced publishing our Responsible Business Report on an annual basis in advance of our Annual Financial Results and Report to Shareholders. For me and my colleagues the Responsible Business Report, gathering as it does in one place the range of activities underway which impact on our different stakeholders, is a source of pride. More importantly it reinforces for us all the importance of carrying out our business in a responsible way and acts as a catalyst for us to continue to improve.
External validation for what an organisation is seeking to achieve, and benchmarking its journey, is always important, particularly for a public company. It was a significant milestone for Bank of Ireland to achieve the accreditation of the Business Working Responsibly Mark by Business in the Community Ireland and audited by the National Standards Authority of Ireland. It gives internal and external transparency on our requirement to continue to embrace the responsibilities which come from this external accreditation.
As Group CEO, I am required to focus on delivering returns for our shareholders in a way that is sustainable and responsible, being conscious of our relationships with, and responsibilities to, other stakeholders. These are compatible objectives requiring, as they do, that we meet the needs of our customers in an empathetic, efficient, professional and sustainable way as well as being visible in and supportive of the communities within which we do our business.
Throughout my career in banking, working in different roles in different countries, the greatest pleasure I get is interacting and meeting with customers. I recently had the privilege of speaking to business customers at the opening of our newest “workbench” - a collaborative working space we provide in a number of our Branches that offers a free but professional working environment for startups to build their ideas and ultimately get their companies off the ground. For me, the provision of such a practical support for customers through our physical presence in communities is a living embodiment of our approach to being a responsible business.
When speaking with colleagues at the Bank, I frequently refer to what I call the Bank’s ‘enlightened self-interest’ in recognition of the fact that we both support, and benefit from sustainable economic growth in the countries in which we operate. When our customers and communities thrive, so do we. Memories are long, therefore I firmly believe that the relationships we nurture with customers as they seek to realise their ambitions are relationships which will endure for generations. That is the real goal for myself and my colleagues and this Report acts as one of the means by which we seek to measure and report on our progress.
For those who read this Report, I hope the content provides a deeper insight into many of the things going on in our organisation and the activities we undertake to meet the needs of our stakeholders. For us, responsible business is part of what we must be to continue to be a successful, sustainable business.
The Publication of our first Responsible Business Report in 2015 marked a turning point in the external positioning of our CSR activity. The Report has been hugely important for our colleagues who have told us that it has helped to build their pride in the organisation. But more importantly, it has become a catalyst for creating strategic engagement on responsible business with colleagues in each of our Divisions.
In this our third Report, we continue to provide a detailed narrative of our business approach and practice in 2016 through the five pillars of Responsible Business: Customer, Colleagues, Community, Environment and Governance. We include numerous case studies, which we feel best illustrate our responsible business practice, and show supporting business rationale with facts and figures where appropriate, to provide additional detail for the reader.
While the case studies and stories contained in this Report highlight different areas of responsible business practice, what unites them is a strong ethos that exists among our colleagues to be of service to our customers and the wider communities in which we do business.
In 2016, we undertook a rigorous external assessment of our Responsible Business performance through the external accreditation Business Working Responsibly Mark, provided by Business in the Community Ireland and audited by the National Standards Authority of Ireland. The Mark is aligned with an international CSR standard (ISO 26000) and is awarded to companies who achieve a best-in-class ranking. While achieving the Mark was an important milestone in itself, the submission process was an invaluable tool for us in highlighting areas of continuous improvement for the future.
And, as we look to developing our plans for the future, we are also mindful of international developments such as the launch of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, the relevance of materiality and emerging legislative changes in non-financial reporting - all of which will help to shape and influence our responsible business approach in 2017 and beyond. Our Responsible Business Report, which is published annually, will allow us to keep you updated on our progress.