A company committed to the world and society is a more profitable company with greater opportunities in the market. Today, being sustainable and helping to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), promoted by the United Nations, has become an engine for doing business. Because consumers and investors are increasingly looking for firms that take care of the environment. “The challenge is enormous because we have to combine economic growth and help the planet,” said Federico Gómez, Grupo Santander’s Director of Sustainability.
“Large companies have realized that the future is sustainable,” stressed the representative of the bank. “The challenge involves everyone,” explained Gómez in Sustainable Radar: Planetas, the joint initiative of Retina and Banco Santander to analyze caring for the environment and the fight against the climate crisis. The health emergency, caused by covid-19, has highlighted the fragility of the world we live in and, in turn, company executives have embraced sustainability as the spearhead to continue growing. The fact is not trivial. According to a survey conducted by PwC, among more than 30,000 people around the world, around two-thirds of consumers have chosen a certain brand for its environmental policies. More than half have left others for not offering fair working conditions, and another important part has left some for the social causes they supported.
“We have an economic model based on producing, consuming and throwing away, which has achieved various progress for humanity in recent decades, but it is necessary to change it,” said María Malaxechevarría, Endesa’s general director of Sustainability, during her participation in the event . The work in favor of the environment that this company has done is not something new. In 2003, the energy firm became one of the first Spanish companies in its field to implement an ESG policy: socially responsible investment, which not only considers profitability, but also social or planet impact. Since then, the subject has been escalating in the direction, the advice and the meeting of shareholders. And not only that. It has also been a driving force among the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with which it works.
“The big companies have a fundamental role: to demonstrate our leadership and be tractors of others”, affirmed Malaxechevarría. From the point of view of supplies, for example, Endesa’s suppliers have to go through a sustainability qualification process and adhere to various social and environmental requirements. “If they are not fulfilled directly, they will not be able to access the bids for our purchases of goods and services,” he explained. For Mónica Chao, Director of Sustainability at Ikea in Spain, talking about the subject requires experience, rigor and adequate profiles that know how to break down complex issues into concrete actions. Above all, it is necessary for the company’s senior management to commit to caring for the environment and society, said the company’s representative during her participation.
“Mere commitments or saying words are not enough … We need cross-cutting knowledge of the companies,” he warned. Chao explained that the firm has the goal of being carbon neutral by 2030. To do this, they are already taking important steps. “In Spain, 85% of the energy we consume is already renewable. We are working to be a circular economy. We have already withdrawn, for example, single-use plastics, we are also integrating secondary raw materials in our production processes, “he added. The great goal of Ikea is that the customer who buys in any store is sure that any product sold there has been made with the environment in mind. “This year we have contributed to 20 million Spaniards living a more sustainable and healthier life, which is a good number, it makes us happy and almost excited, for being part of this change that we are seeing in society. How do we do this? We did it because we have 3,700 references that are sustainable ”, he added.
A bet for a better world
The financial sector has been one of those that has best understood sustainability. It not only aims to mutate from within, but also to be a factor of change through its activity. “Companies have to transform and banks have to give that answer,” said Gómez. Banco Santander, for example, is advancing in three main ways. The first: progressively stop financing energy companies whose income depends more than 10% on thermal coal by 2030. The second: give many more resources to green activities. The third: accompany organizations on the path to sustainability. “The bank proposes specific solutions, specific products to be able to make this change”, highlights the representative of the firm.
“We realized years ago that the role of the bank had to be to accompany clients towards this transition. But the first thing we did was make an internal change, ”said Gómez. This change gave birth to the Responsible Banking, Sustainability and Culture Committee, made up of five independent directors who advise the board of directors on the design of corporate values, including the strategy of responsible business practices and sustainability. “The bank is another economic agent, as are individuals, as are non-financial companies,” Gómez stressed.
Right now no one is being left behind. According to the expert, the impulse of European funds and the urgency to rescue the planet have come together to carry out projects in favor of sustainability. “I am optimistic. I have never seen so many social agents, from governments, companies, banks, regulators, research … for the first time I have seen these groups rowing in the same direction ”, he added. “The effort that is being made by everyone will bear fruit,” he concluded.