Can we keep doing what we're doing without harming the future? How do we make the world better now without hurting tomorrow?
In 2015, the UN set 17 Sustainable Development Goals, showing that sustainable development is not just a dream but something we can do soon. In Vietnam, 94% of businesses know this, and more than half already use sustainable practices with ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) standards.
ACB, leading the way, was the first Vietnamese bank to issue an ESG report this October, aiming to measure sustainable objectives. Setting aside the technicalities, let's dive into a discussion with ACB leaders through 10 insightful questions about ESG and the journey of sustainable banking.
How would you explain ESG to a five-year-old?
Simply put, ESG is like ensuring that everything you love and need is still around for you to enjoy when you’re grown up. It's about securing a future for the next generations, not just ours.
ESG includes Governance, steering a company in the right direction; Social, extending beyond basic social welfare and charity to encompass employee care and gender equality within the business; and Environmental, focusing on a company's impact on the environment and natural resources.
Why is ESG crucial at this moment?
We’re already a bit late. Developed countries have moved past ESG to focus heavily on EEE, with a total focus on the environment. The Social and Governance aspects are now fundamental expectations, and companies are pushed to exceed these basic criteria.
Though somewhat late compared to the global trend, ESG remains a vital and practical concept for businesses in an emerging market like Vietnam.
A decade ago, ACB embarked on ESG when the concept was still unfamiliar. Why did ACB choose to implement ESG?
We envision ACB as an enduring enterprise, not just for the next 5-10 years, but for centuries. We've seen global banks endure for hundreds of years. The environment is key for longevity, and ACB aims to be part of the solution, not the problem.
Where did ACB's ESG journey begin?
The foundation of ESG at ACB was laid with an environmental project - 'Close to O,' meaning getting closer to Earth. Launched in 2013, it was rolled out to all staff in 2015 and expanded to include customers and partners by 2020. After the success of 'Close to O,' ACB decided to pioneer ESG as part of its overall development strategy.
E - Environment
Was it challenging to eliminate single-use plastics in a bank?
It wasn't easy, but we've journeyed for ten years to reach this point.
Would you believe it? In 2013, an internal survey at ACB revealed that only 6% of bank employees were aware of environmental pollution, with most indifferent to the issue.
We spent a decade on the 'Close to O'' project to change our employees' mindsets, behavior, and habits. We gave them a sustainable toolkit to phase out single-use plastics with a thermal mug, a stainless steel straw set, and a fabric bag. Later, these kits were also distributed to customers through environmentally focused programs and services.
ACB saved 204 tons of paper in a year. Is there a story behind the bank's paper-saving efforts?
Paperwork and banking are closely linked concepts. A few years ago, a lot of paper was used for customer documentation, but now most processes are digitized. ACB implemented digital signatures in credit processes with e-signature, carried out projects like Green Transactions, Go Paperless Credit, and digitalized document storage…
We've also digitized staff contract processes with digital signatures for contracts and agreements. This activity is estimated to save an additional 0.5 tons of paper annually while fully complying with legal requirements.
S - Social
90% of ACB’s skilled staff with over three years of tenure stay with the bank. How does ACB retain its talent?
We attribute this to our diverse workforce, spanning Baby Boomers to Gen Z. We don't label or segregate by age but instead cultivate a universal work culture focused on “Work-Live-Learn,” addressing job satisfaction, life balance, and continuous learning. Regular evaluations and supportive management help retain our talents.
49% of ACB's managerial staff are women. What does gender diversity bring to ACB?
Gender equality has always been part of our culture. At ACB, gender doesn't determine leadership potential. Women in an encouraging environment can perform as well as, if not better than, their male counterparts.
G - Governance
ACB's non-performing loan ratio is 1.2%, marking it the lowest in the banking sector. How could customers interpret this figure?
This figure is a testament to the bank's robust financial stability and exceptional risk management skills.
For seven consecutive years, ACB has maintained a non-performing loan rate below 1%. While most banks recently recorded an increase in this metric, with some exceeding 3%, ACB experienced one of the smallest increases. Currently, we have the lowest industry ratio at 1.2%.
This reinforces ACB's position as a reliable, efficient financial institution trusted by customers, partners, and shareholders.
93% of ACB employees are committed to sustainable development. Was it challenging to achieve this level of employee commitment?
A decade ago, ESG was a foreign concept at ACB, met with skepticism and resistance even from prominent shareholders. Chairman Trần Hùng Huy was aware of the challenges ahead in advocating for its long-term benefits. The implementation of ESG at ACB isn't a short-term strategy but a vision spanning decades and beyond.
At its core, ACB has remained dedicated to adhering to governance principles beneficial to the bank’s overall goals, enhancing social activities impacting employees, customers, and the broader community, and intensifying efforts to conserve resources and reduce environmental impact.
ACB's workforce focuses on personal growth in sustainable practices, striving for excellence before spreading these values to customers and inspiring them to embrace ACB's ESG standards. Our ambition is for ACB's approach to ESG to become a catalyst, encouraging other businesses, partners, and customers to engage in sustainable practices.