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37 (132) 2018
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Corporate Social Responsibility

Responsible business can bring real change

By Katarzyna Teter, menedżer ds. społecznej odpowiedzialności biznesu
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Santander Bank Polska, as one of the largest financial institutions in Poland, is committed to implementing its corporate social responsibility strategy, based on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as defined by the UN.

As a part of the international Santander Group, the Polish bank operates according to the highest standards applicable in the banking sector, constantly extending the range of projects conducted for its stakeholders

“Social responsibility in Santander Bank Polska is just as important as its basic business activity. These are two sides of the same coin. The bank operates thanks to its customers and we believe that we should repay them for the trust, improving the quality of life and the development of the communities in which they live. This is the approach of the entire Santander Group to which we belong,” says Michał Gajewski, president of the management board of Santander Bank Polska.

Santander was one of the first institutions in the Polish financial sector that developed and implemented a wide range of social and environmental policies. Among them was the Sustainable Development Policy, which defines the Bank's approach to responsible business. The document includes many voluntary, ethical, social and environmental commitments that go beyond legal provisions. Together with the objectives set by the UN, it is included in the strategic planning processes and sets standards for the current work of the management and other employees of the Bank.

Banks, due to the specific nature of the services they provide, base their operations on the trust of customers and other stakeholder groups. The purpose of the CSR activities is to convert this trust into engagement in areas important to society, especially those that support the implementation of the objectives arising from the UN's Sustainable Development Strategy. In its operations, the Bank focuses in particular on several of them, the most consistent is with its business operations and for which it has the greatest impact as a financial organisation.

Financial education

The operations of banks by definition are work for a sustainable development and improving the quality of people's lives. Without services such as investment credits, the economy could not grow. Yet growth should support the elimination of huge wealth disparities in society, which is one of the causes of social exclusion, and was of an inclusive nature. Therefore, Santander Bank Polska focuses on aligning economic opportunities in society and undertakes – as does the entire Santander Group – operations extending access to financial education.

Among such activities is among others, an online financial education portal, Finansiaki.pl, whose aim is to shape competences in the area of finance and entrepreneurship among primary school, junior high and high school students, their parents and teachers. The materials content is available on the portal, including lesson plans prepared in accordance with the school’s basic curriculum. This allows their attractive form to reach a wide group of recipients, including children from the age of three already.

The Bank also engages in external initiatives in the area of financial education, such as the Bakcyl project implemented with the Warsaw Banking Institute and addressed to junior high-school students or Security in cyberspace implemented by the Polish Bank Association or Economic Comics, published by the Foundation Forum for Civic Development (FOR).

Support for talents and local communities

Among the aims of the UN’s Sustainable Development Strategy of which Santander Bank Polska is close to is Objective 4, concerned with ensuring high-quality education and lifelong-learning opportunities for all. Therefore the bank, apart from promoting knowledge related to finance and entrepreneurship, also supports in a broader sense the development of education.

One of the flagship projects of the social responsibility of the bank and the entire Santander Group is Santander Universidades, developing a global network of cooperation with businesses and over 1,200 universities, including 57 from Poland, from around the world. The idea of the programme  is based on the assumption that the cooperation of commercial bodies with the academic environment directly translates into the development of new technologies or research programmes. In Poland, the project was launched in December 2011 and another example of our activity is the Santander Orchestra project, an initiative addressed to young musicians who can learn to play in a symphony orchestra, and during various workshops complement their knowledge, related to among others with shaping one’s own image.

Santander Bank Polska also operates where it can have a real impact on the lives of its stakeholders, for e.g. supporting local communities. The projects aimed at improving the quality of life in local communities are among others How’s Your Driving, promoting safe behaviour on the roads, or Buy at Your Neighbour’s, encouraging consumers to shop in your immediate neighbourhood.

Communication with stakeholders.

The Bank regularly and consistently informs about its activities in the field of responsible business and the main source of information is Santander Bank Polska's Responsible Business Report published every year.

The report for 2017 has been made available online, a website is available in Polish (raport.santander.pl) and in English (en.raport.santander.pl) All reporting data available on the website is constantly being updated with new information on the bank's non-financial activity. Thanks to this, you will have ongoing access to information about all the latest and most interesting CSR activities.  The website is adapted for use by the blind and visually impaired, compliant with international WCAG 2.0 standards – accessibility for people with special needs.

This year, as part of the Responsible Business Report of Santander Bank Polska is the #We have Common Purposes competition, through which social organisations submitted their own projects in regards to one of the Sustainable Development Goals supported by Santander Bank Polska. The winning organisation received a subsidy of 30,000 złotys from the Santander Bank Polska Foundation for the implementation of the project.

Santander Bank Polska's reports are prepared in accordance with the guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI standards) and are subject to verification of an independent auditor. In previous years (2013, 2014 and 2015), still under the old brand of Bank Zachodni WBK, we won awards in the Social Reports Competition. For the 2015 report, the bank received two awards – from internet users and journalists. In 2016, in addition to the main prizes awarded by internet users and journalists, the jury awarded us a prize for educational values.

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