Treasury as a Force for Good
By Eleanor Hill, Editor
Corporate social responsibility and diversity and inclusion are growing parts of the treasurer’s remit. TMI’s recent Treasury4Good Awards highlighted some of the innovative projects taking place in this space, stimulated debate on building a sustainable and inclusive treasury function, and paid tribute to a treasury legend.
All the images from the night can be viewed at the Treasury4Good Awards Gallery.
Kicking off with a passionate speech from Angie Pankhania, Acting Director, Finance and Governance, United Nations Association – UK, about the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Treasury4Good Awards evening was a learning opportunity for corporates and banks alike. Pankhania spoke in depth about the need for greater action from the corporate sector around supporting and embodying the SDGs. She also outlined the benefits of operating sustainably, emphasising that there is no longer a need to compromise on profit or responsible business – in fact, sustainable businesses are outperforming their less forward-thinking counterparts, she explained.
17 Sustainable Development Goals
Next to take to the stage was a panel of sustainability champions, comprising three Award winners: Joanna Bonnett, Group Treasurer, PageGroup; Lance Kawaguchi, Managing Director, Global Head – Corporates, Global Liquidity and Cash Management, HSBC; and Luc Vlaminck, Group Treasurer & Managing Director, Financière Rémy Cointreau SA/NV.
Starting by emphasising the treasurer’s growing role in supporting corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts and embedding them into treasury process, Vlaminck said: “Sustainability is quickly becoming a key part of long-term business thinking and while it is not a traditional part of the treasurer’s role, treasury can play a part. At Rémy Cointreau, CSR is integrated into everything we do, under the motto ‘Terroir, people and time’. One of the main ways we promote sustainability is through our supply chain,” he explained. “We ask our suppliers to join Sedex [the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange]. This is a collaborative online platform that enables members to collect and share information and map risk in their supply chain. At Rémy Cointreau, we use the platform to manage suppliers’ ethical and social performance helping to protect people and the environment.”
Vlaminck also shared some interesting statistics around the percentage of suppliers using Sedex, with the target being 100% by 2019/2020. Full participation of suppliers is one of the group’s key goals in its 2020 CSR Plan, he noted, which also outlines how the company is embracing the SDGs.
Bonnett then talked about some of the challenges that treasurers might face when looking to be more sustainable. “While the large transaction banks are great at suggesting solutions to digitise processes and therefore remove paper from workflows, and they also offer numerous funding options such as green bonds and green loans, we would like to see more green cash management products,” she said.
“PageGroup recently revisited our banking group, but no banks spoke to us about sustainability. And when we were looking at deposits, there was no mention of green deposit products – although I am pleasantly surprised to discover that these exist,” she said. The product being referred to is Barclays Green Deposit, which won the Award for Best Green Cash & Liquidity Solution.
Talk then progressed to the ‘people’ side of CSR. When asked how organisations can establish a speak-up culture for employees, Kawaguchi shared some experiences of how HSBC is doing just that. “Last year, the Group announced its ambition to create the ‘Healthiest Human System’ in financial services. A significant part of the HSBC strategy, in addition to improving customer satisfaction and conduct, is doing better by our employees by removing barriers that prevent them from being at their best,” he explained.
Kawaguchi outlined how hosting internal roundtables to hear directly from employees about the improvements they would like to see in the organisation is an effective way of identifying barriers to having a speak-up culture. “One of the most common answers we hear in these roundtables is that sometimes employees would like to speak up, but they lack the courage to deliver the message they want. As a result, I make sure my team hears from senior stakeholders regularly who reiterate the fact that they will not be penalised for speaking up but that they’ll be protected and the right thing will come of it.”