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Cyprus 4.0

Cyprus 4.0: Environmental, Social & Governance matters that go beyond banking

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Panicos Nicolaou, BoC Chief Executive Officer

Ahead of regulatory requirements, for the better good for the entirety of Cyprus society.

Can we do well as a business, while doing good as a member of society?  Can the challenge of doing good be reconciled with the need to do well? The answer to both questions, once considered to be provocative, is “Yes”.

Corporate Social Responsibility was for a long time treated as a way of ‘giving back’ to society. This has been the definition of Corporate Social Responsibility for almost two centuries: businesses, because they ‘take’ from society, should ‘give back’. And, indeed, CSR was always a way of affirming a corporation’s level of success.

Traditional CSR was therefore based on a defining premise: That profit, and social responsibility necessarily move in opposite directions.

This is the premise that we are today abandoning. The future lies with businesses who are also good citizens; who act together with society for the benefit of all. This is not only a moral imperative, but also prudent profit-seeking business.

Our Non-Financial Results, for 2020, due in June 2021, the fourth annual publication confirms precisely this approach. What we promote in our society through our actions -among them, gender equality, social good, respect for the environment, better governance- must start inside our business, to become a visceral part of our daily lives, before becoming a public agenda.

We are finding a new modus vivendi with our interested partners, customers, employees, suppliers, shareholders, regulators.

We transact as allies for the better good for the entirety of society in which we operate. If this is slowly taking root internationally through new agendas like ESG, it is even more important for a Bank with the size, market share and systemic impact of Bank of Cyprus.

This is why our upcoming Non-Financial Results report of BoC reflects a new approach to Environmental, Social and Governance performance. It reflects significant progress, and it is honest in the need for further advance. We note, honestly, openly, transparently, both the road covered and the road still ahead. We are aware that Bank of Cyprus is necessarily beyond banking. It has a history of bringing change- the first computer, the first mutual fund, the first ATM and the first inroads into gender equality are just a few examples. Now, we are gearing to push ourselves and the country ahead, both in our technological uptake, and in the way we see our stakeholders as partners, first and foremost.

Above all, we see this, not as the privilege of the oldest and most important bank in the country, but as a responsibility. And this makes a great deal of difference.

We are already redefining our efforts, through programmes like SupportCY which brings together businesses, NGOs and authorities to generate social capital, and like #RestartCy aiming to address the impact of the outgoing pandemic. Other moves are also making a splash, like IDEA, which incubates and supports Startups in our market. #CYON is geared to generate technological change for all Cypriots, both customers and noncustomers of the bank. We are also redefining older programmes, like the Bank of Cyprus Oncology Centre and our Cultural Foundation, in this light.

None of this is antithetical to our core business of banking. In fact, the above efforts are in a sense our most important investment.

Social Capital, is, indeed, capital. The above efforts help build a stronger, better governed, more transparent, more just, and more equal society. Such a society is the best foothold for profits. It would be ineffective and unwise to believe that an unequal, unjust, unfair society with no cohesion can support an organisation of our size.

In this, we no longer extend ‘housing loans’: We now finance homes. We don’t have SME lending, but financing for dreams and aspirations. We don’t extend student loans, but we finance education and prospects. And, we don’t give corporate loans, but we finance growth, better jobs, a stronger economy on  which our society can be built.

This is a very ambitious agenda and cannot be completed in a short amount of time. But it is a clear aspiration. It will not be easy, but we will remain focused, loyal to our country and in a spirit of ‘partnership with our Partners’-customers, colleagues, shareholders, regulators, vendors and neighbours.

With this humble report, with the renewed focus on ESG matters, and with small, often technical, indeed, often boring changes that take place every day, we are ready to make, as John Kennedy said in his inaugural, a simple but moving call: “Let us begin”.


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