"The entire financial industry has lost the confidence of the people. How can we change the way we do things and gain it back?," asked university lecturer and journalist Jeroen Smit at the opening of the "Bank of the Future" seminar. Over 300 professionals and social entrepreneurs gathered in Amsterdam to discuss with 7 Dutch bank CEOs how their industry can become more sustainable, responsible and value-adding.
In his speech, Peter Bakker, WBCSD president and former CEO of TNT, pointed out that "we are facing multiple crises at a time. Some of them have an immediate impact like the economic recession, some are long-term like climate change. One of our greatest challenges is youth unemployment which has already reached over 50% in crisis-ridden nations like Spain. If we do not find an answer to this soon, we will have a revolution at our very doorsteps in 10 years."
He argued that a solution will neither come top-down from government regulators nor bottom-up from private activists. "Only businesses have the knowledge, innovation skills and dynamic capacities to tackle the most pressing issues of our generation. What we need is principal-based leadership by companies that offer radical transparency while engaging with all stakeholders - also with the people from Occupy."
A first step is that enterprises start internalizing the costs they create for their environment. "Clothing retailer PUMA, for instance, created a Profit & Loss account which includes Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Water Consumption. These are just notional charges. Firms do not actually pay for them even though society does. That is why we have to monetize them into actual charges," Bakker explained.
Design thinking and co-creation
At the seminar itself, innovators had the chance to present projects that would enroot banks more into society to 7 CEOs of Dutch financial players like ING, Rabobank and Achmea. Common to all of them was a design thinking and co-creation approach. Beyond finance, this has been of particular relevance in education innovation initiatives like the Learning Lab.
Banks investing client money face many dilemmas, one of them being the question of where their responsibility ends and when customer risk choice starts. Ruud Schuurs from "The Different Council" (Dutch: Raad van Anders) aims to empower both firms and communities to tackle such dilemmas.
To implement "The Different Council", firms pose a question and invite people from outside their organization to conduct a research. The business itself facilitates and accompanies this process while granting access to all information necessary.