Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Commerzbank puts flesh on commitment

May 2006

Commerzbank has formed a reputation and sustainability management team as part of efforts to improve its social and environmental performance. The three-person team will be responsible for CSR throughout the Frankfurt-based bank, one of Europe’s largest. Situated within the bank’s communications unit, it will draw up a CSR strategy for the whole company. With support from managers in various departments, it will run working groups and workshops on corporate responsibility and hopes to produce concrete measures by the end of the year.

A review of internal rules and regulations is also under way, with a view to producing, in the second half of the year, an ethical code of conduct presenting a ‘clear and unequivocal commitment to CSR, co-existence based on partnership and the sustainable development of our business’.

In addition, the team will conduct the company’s first stakeholder survey and align its working conditions and investments more closely with International Labour Organization conventions. Another priority will be to develop more employee-friendly working programmes, including a flexi-time scheme being piloted this year.

One factor that has prompted Commerzbank to take a greater interest in CSR has been the Lukoil affair, in which the company, as part of an international bank consortium, granted a loan to the Russian oil group Lukoil to build an offshore rig in the Baltic Sea.

Lukoil has been accused of failing to conduct social and environmental impact assessments on the project and ignoring the risks of drilling for oil in a Lithuanian nature reserve. As a result, Commerzbank has been heavily criticized in Germany for its role in lending without due regard for the project’s impacts. It has since held talks with environmental and human rights groups.

Although it has, for now, decided not to become a signatory to the Equator Principles, which guide other banks on ethical lending for projects above £50m, it will place particular emphasis on drafting internal environmental and social guidelines for loans.

The bank expects the CSR strategy to ‘improve risk management tools further in order to achieve greater transparency and a better basis for decision-making’. It also believes that the strategy will bring about an improvement in its CSR communications.

‘Corporate responsibility is a vast topic, and the time has come for a systematic, structured approach,’ Commerzbank told EP. ‘We also hope it will provide us with a platform for presenting our achievements and promoting an understanding of the values and other factors that underpin our actions.’

Commerzbank, which has assets of €445billion ($540bn, £308bn) and made €393million net profits in 2004, recently released its first stand-alone corporate responsibility report, and aims to publish one every two years. When the strategy is up and running, it will consider having the report independently validated.

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