We are delighted to Introduce a new series, brought to you by SIF Ireland, in which we ask leaders in the financial sector for their thoughts on the rapid development and mainstreaming of ESG and Responsible Investment. This week, Colin Hunt, the CEO of AIB shares his insights.
CH: “In recent years, the ESG agenda has really gained momentum on a variety of levels across all our stakeholders. It’s one of the reasons why we put sustainability as a key tenet of our recently announced 3-year Group strategy – recognising the role we have to play in building a sustainable economy and in the communities we serve. While it’s early to speculate long-term, I believe the Covid-19 pandemic will only sharpen the focus on ESG matters and the role business has played through the crisis in responding, in particular through social impact actions to support colleagues, customers and within their communities. Those who stepped-up will both retain and build loyalty and engagement which is a constant ESG theme on the investor radar.”
SIF Ireland: What is the outlook for the rest of 2020?
CH: “This is an extraordinary period globally. At AIB, we are concentrating our efforts right now on supporting our customers and the economy through this exceptionally challenging event while ensuring the well-being of our staff, suppliers and other stakeholders. That is what is important – the supports we can offer our customers, communities and country so we can all emerge from this as strong as possible. The economic environment has changed hugely in the last month but the Covid19 pandemic will abate from a health risk perspective and we have to look at how we support our customers and play a leading role in the great task of rebooting the economy when the time comes.”
SIF Ireland: How optimistic are you about the agenda?
CH: “Notwithstanding the challenges we’re currently facing, I’m extremely positive about the broad ESG / Sustainable finance agenda. What this crisis has highlighted more than ever is the interconnectivity between having a healthy and sustainable society and a healthy and sustainable economy. Banking is at the very heart of both society and economy and while we are already building a strong renewables portfolio, we are doubling down on our efforts to further support our customers and colleagues to enable and educate them in the required transition to a lower-carbon, healthier economy.”
SIF Ireland: Can you tell us a bit about your organisation’s future plans around ESG?
CH: “We made major advances on our overall in sustainability agenda in recent years, which now sits at the very heart of our strategy with targets and ambitions which we must meet. The single fastest growing part of our bank is our energy and climate action area. It doubled in 2019 and we expect it will be the single fastest growing part of the bank’s estate over the course of the next three years despite the challenge of Covid-19. In addition, as a founding signatory to the UN Principles for Responsible Banking and a supporter of the TCFD we have several obligations to meet. Net-net it is a busy and exciting time ahead for us on this agenda.”
SIF Ireland: Is there a company or person that you admire in this space and why?
CH: “There’s no one business or individual that I admire in this space… rather I admire those who recognise and respond to these issues and who are not found wanting in their actions. Any business that wants to both survive and thrive must recognise the central role that sustainability has in their strategy.”