Translate sustainability into business opportunities
Leonie Schreve is head of sustainable lending at Dutch bank ING. She currently holds the position of chair for the Equator Principles. She is a former winner of the Financial Times chairman’s award for leadership in sustainable project finance.
Schreve says that banks need to get sustainability integrated in their commercial strategy, and is developing a new team at ING to do just that.
Ethical Corporation: “Head of sustainable lending” – that sounds like an interesting role. What does it involve exactly?
Leonie Schreve: At the moment, it involves setting up a new team within the commercial side of ING focused on integrating sustainability in our commercial business model, as a business opportunity. My aim is to enable us to make a portfolio shift, to do more business with sustainable companies. My team is also working on developing new sustainable markets where we expect growth opportunities.
Ethical Corporation: What’s the biggest issue you think you will face in the year ahead?
Leonie Schreve: I think the biggest issue is really making steps towards translating sustainability into business opportunities. That’s true not just for ING. It’s true for most companies. At a personal level, my biggest issue is to build my new team and to make a difference within the bank. Ultimately, we want to fully integrate sustainable business opportunities within ING’s business model.
Ethical Corporation: What do you see as the most interesting opportunities for a bank such as ING?
Leonie Schreve: The main opportunities are in those companies that are proactive in addressing issues of resource scarcity and sustainability. We’re looking to allocate our efforts towards those companies. I see big potential in water, waste and energy. We will be looking to develop new markets in these areas. There is a lot of development going on in terms of clean energy in China, just to cite one example.
Water is a particularly interesting sector for us. The potential impact that climate change can have on water supplies makes it a really critical area. Water security is set to have a big impact on business operations. I think this will become increasingly evident in the coming years. The issue of water touches on all sectors, after all. As an industry sector, water still needs a lot of development but we see a lot of business opportunities there as well.
Ethical Corporation: Climate change – adaptation or mitigation?
Leonie Schreve: Adaptation.
Ethical Corporation: A government to watch on sustainability?
Leonie Schreve: China.
Ethical Corporation: Corporation tax – higher or lower?
Leonie Schreve: I would say more balanced!
Ethical Corporation: Shared value or sustainability?
Leonie Schreve: Sustainability is shared value.
Leonie Schreve will be speaking about “Sustainability as a market strategy: a detailed insight on the business case from a lender’s perspective”, at this year's 12th Annual Responsible Business Summit, 7-8 May 2013.