When we think about banks, the image that often comes to mind is one of dry numbers and a complex, rigid operational system. What’s less recognized is that banks are actually at the forefront of sectors that must be flexible to survive and thrive in our rapidly changing era. They also play a crucial role in supporting other vital elements of the economy and society.
In 2023, when the words “ESG” or “sustainable development” started trending in Vietnam, some institutions, including ACB, had already been practicing these notions for years. On October 27, 2023, ACB distinguished itself as the first Vietnamese bank to release an ESG (Environmental - Social - Governance) report.
Why did ACB focus on ESG a decade ago?
Since the Vietnamese government's strong commitments at COP 26 in 2021, ESG has become an increasingly prevalent trend for businesses striving for sustainable development and enhanced competitiveness during the integration era.
However, “ESG” and “sustainable development” are not new concepts.
In 2012, The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, discussed strengthening the institutional frameworks for sustainable development and green economies. From September 2013, countries began building the United Nations' post-2015 development agenda, including 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
In 2013, under the leadership of its youngest-ever chairman, ACB embarked on its sustainable development path with a unique vision.
Chairman Tran Hung Huy stated:
"ESG seemed like a far-off idea a decade ago, and even ACB's big investors didn’t align with it. I knew convincing them and proving ESG's worth would take time. This isn’t a short-term project; it’s about planning for 10, 20, 30 years into the future, even longer.
Furthermore, the banking sector is pivotal in leading the economy through capital provision and coordination. Banks taking the lead in ESG implementation can significantly motivate their client businesses to set new sustainable development standards.
Honestly, we're a bit late now. In developed countries, discussions have moved beyond ESG to focus entirely on the Environment (EEE). Social (S) and Governance (G) are now basic expectations, and businesses need to strive for excellence beyond these.
Though late compared to the global stage, ESG remains a practical concept for businesses in a developing market like Vietnam."
Indeed, longstanding banks like JPMorgan, with thousands of years of history, have invested nearly 70 billion USD in their Sustainable Development Goals, also creating a Carbon Assessment Framework to help clients meet emission reduction goals.
ACB's ten years of commitment to sustainable initiatives as a 30-year-old Vietnamese bank reflect the leadership's far-sighted vision amidst global shifts.
How Was ACB Prepared to Embrace ESG?
ACB has been attentive to Governance (G) and Social (S) factors since its inception. By 2013, the bank began the "Close to O" program, involving a series of environmental initiatives.
ACB steadily built its Environmental (E) foundation through this program, enhancing it with the previously developed Governance and Social elements. This approach enabled ACB to devise and refine its ESG strategy, achieving significant milestones over a decade of dedicated efforts.
G - Vietnam’s Premier Bank in Risk Management
Governance is one of ACB’s major strengths in its ESG-focused evolution.
In 2022, ACB successfully implemented key aspects of the European Central Bank's liquidity safety standards (ILAAP) and Basel III regulations. By 2023, PwC acknowledged ACB’s full compliance with Basel III for Banking Book Interest Rate Risk and Basel II for Market Risk Management.
This advancement positions the bank closer to international norms, fostering effective, robust growth.
In March 2023, The Asian Banker honored ACB with the “Best Enterprise Risk Management In Vietnam – 2023” award. Given Vietnam’s fluctuating banking landscape, ACB was recognized for its rapid response to short-term risks and capability to foresee impacts in the next 10-20 years.
S - Asia’s Top Workplace
Human resource development is a pivotal aspect of ACB's ESG strategy in the Social (S) category.
Adopting a strategy to rejuvenate its workforce and create a WORK:LIVE:LEARN culture, ACB aims to establish an inclusive, equitable work environment. This ensures financial and health security for employees, provides self-development opportunities, and fosters contributions to the community and business.
In 2023, ACB won the “Best companies to work for in Asia 2022” award from HR Asia magazine for the fifth consecutive year. This accolade acknowledges ACB's commitment to providing an ideal workplace. Additionally, ACB received the “HR ASIA Digital Transformation Awards,” recognizing companies that have successfully digitalized employee experiences, enhancing workplace culture and cohesion.
Nguyen Khac Nguyen, Director of Human Resource Management at ACB, shared his insights on creating a great workplace at Talentnet’s “The Makeover” symposium:
“Employees should be seen as ‘assets of the business,’ not just a labor force.”
Fostering this asset involves more than benefits or salaries. It’s about caring for mental health, offering career development training, and focusing on employee empowerment.
ACB, with its dedicated learning center, routinely provides courses to enhance employees' expertise, empowering them to excel and progress in their careers. 2022 was a landmark year with over 760,105 training hours for ACB employees, marking a 17% increase from 2021.
ACB’s Eneji Station is part of the bank's efforts to improve working conditions. It provides employees with various services, such as dining, relaxation, light exercise, and massage chairs in the rest area, contributing to their overall well-being.
E - Ten Years of Perseverance with 'Close to O'
Prior to launching ‘Close to O,’ ACB conducted an internal survey revealing only 6% of its employees were aware of environmental pollution issues. The majority were not concerned, underestimating the impact of their actions on the environment.
However, by 2022, the initiative saw a remarkable shift: 93% of employees were committed to ESG practices, 215 tons of paper were saved and recycled through digitalization, and 32 tons of plastic were replaced with environmentally friendly materials.
Over the decade, ACB invested over 307 billion VND in tangible activities and campaigns to raise environmental awareness among its employees, clients, and the broader community.
After ten years, ACB cautiously released its sustainability report, reflecting a balanced approach between rhetoric and action.
What Will We Leave for Tomorrow? - 10 Years and Beyond
A decade is a substantial period, yet it might not be long enough to encapsulate “sustainable development fully.”
ACB is currently weaving sustainability into its business strategy. The bank systematically tracks and evaluates its ESG initiatives.
Mr. Tang Hoang Quoc Thai, Director of Communications and Branding at ACB, shares:
“Starting in 2024, ACB will enhance its green credit program to increase loans for environmentally positive enterprises.
The bank is developing a green financing framework, incorporating a ‘green net’ for screening. This includes ‘blue’ aspects (related to sustainable water usage, wastewater treatment, etc.) and ‘green’ aspects (involving renewable energy, clean transportation, green buildings, efficient resource management, etc.).”
ACB’s strategy illustrates its commitment to balancing immediate results with long-term sustainable growth, harmonizing revenue growth with stakeholder value, and positively contributing to society and the community.
ACB's leadership aspires for its ESG model to inspire others, encouraging businesses, partners, and customers to embrace ESG, helping Vietnam achieve its Net Zero goal.