Banks

Can finance and sustainability go hand in hand?

– Let’s come to the bank. What about sustainability at UBS?
– Harold Egger: Our ecological footprint is important to us. We have been committed to this for forty years and we are the first bank to have obtained, in 1999 already, an ISO 14001 certification for our activities on a global scale. Since 2020, 100% of our electricity has come from renewable sources. We have set the objective of net zero emissions for our activities by 2025. The solution lies in the energy and environmental efficiency of buildings, since they represent 70% of emissions. We pay attention to sustainability during renovations or new constructions. For example, our main office in Zurich is certified LEED Platinum and our site in Bern is certified LEED Gold. It benefits from remote heating without fossil energy. But we also have to see what is happening within the buildings. Over the past twenty years, we have reduced our waste by 75%. The fact that we have recycling stations almost everywhere is a big help.
– Florian Hofmann (he laughs): Then I can bring you my old banknotes.
– Luc Nünlist: Sustainability is a great concept, but it’s being abused. The concept should not lose its meaning. It needs to be vitalized. For a bank, it would be great for buildings to be managed according to the canons of energy efficiency, but the real leverage lies in the impact, as well as in the investments of collective capital.
– Harald Egger: In terms of sustainability, we also integrate our suppliers. With them and our partners, we discuss ways to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions. To do this, we focus first on our suppliers who, in the chain of subcontractors, are responsible for the greatest greenhouse gas emissions. The basic idea is to reduce, not compensate. We are convinced that a good investment in sustainability pays off.
– Florian Hofmann: Yes, it’s about taking into account the entire life cycle of a building. Glass palaces are over. A new building must last three generations. Let’s take the one where we are. It is heated using CO2-neutral energy and all resources are upgraded several times. We use the Rhine. Geothermal probes are also to be taken into account. Optimizing efficiency always starts with what is simple and small. Sustainability is not just about saving energy. We take a close look at all the materials we use. Here, the carpets and curtains are made from recycled materials and the seats are made from recycled PET as well. The Coop on campus is the only branch that does not distribute plastic bags.
-Thomas Aegerter: The key question is how to build a CO2 neutral agency. We are re-examining all processes so that, for example, we can go completely paperless. So much so that we are currently investing a lot in digital transformation. And we check every product we use. As a result, the bank eliminated all single-use cups for water and coffee, as well as over 320 other single-use items.
– Luc Nünlist: This is the right way. Influential players, such as banks and large retailers, must show greater responsibility than the small consumer. Through supply and marketing, they significantly influence consumer behavior, as well as production. The sustainable subsidiary of the Coop on the Campus Roche site shows that this is possible.
– Thomas Aegerter: We are convinced that focusing on fewer buildings, but with high ecological requirements, has many advantages and improves the ecological footprint. This is why we sold our Basel building on Aeschenplatz and reduced our presence from three to two sites. In this way, we have been able to reduce UBS’s energy consumption in Basel by a third, heating by half and electricity consumption by more than a quarter.
– Florian Hofmann: At our Basel site, we want to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025. Finally, sustainability is also a subject of communication. As a company, you have to stand out. When we started an urban gardening project, we expected at best 50 applications. However, the interest of the employees far exceeded our expectations. We had to draw participants and we now have a waiting list. In addition, we conducted a survey among employees here in Basel to find out what sustainability means to their daily lives. Result: they are willing to pay more for sustainable products.
– Harald Egger: We have similar projects at UBS. In the United States, for example, honey is produced on the roof of one of our sites. (He immediately distributes some to accompany the croissants.) And in India, employees grow peppers. In addition, vegan menus are increasingly in demand in our company canteens.
– Beatrice Stirnimann: When it comes to sustainability, the employer plays an important role. But I also observe that people behave differently during their leisure time. When they attend big festivals, they forget everything. They use plastic tents and leave them there. They dump their trash anywhere. After me the deluge!
– Thomas Aegerter: Start small. For example, I am a member of the organizing committee of a regional gymnastics tournament and we have appointed a member who only deals with the sustainability aspects. In this context, we take care of everything. We check every item and every product.

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