CASY tool helps businesses go sustainable

For many years, ABN AMRO has taken sustainability into consideration when assessing business loan applications, based on sector knowledge, benchmarking and sustainability scores. Now, for the first time, the bank is sharing these valuable insights with clients using the new CASY tool. Sander van Wijk, Head of Sector Advisory at ABN AMRO, talks about what CASY is and how it can benefit businesses.

In his twenty years with ABN AMRO, Sander van Wijk has experienced from close up how the concept of sustainability has evolved. It went from being an oddity to a fad, and today companies welcome it as a concrete and viable business model. “Sustainability has long been an abstract concept for many businesses,” says Sander. “We’ve now reached a tipping point. An increasing number of companies are actively becoming more sustainable.” 

ABN AMRO’s new CASY tool is designed to accelerate this development and thus fits in perfectly with the bank’s sustainability ambitions. One of these goals is to close at least 100 circular deals totalling 1 billion euros by 2020; this now stands at 28 transactions valued at 270 million euros. CASY should give the bank a boost in achieving this goal.

A wealth of information

CASY, which stands for Client Assessment on Sustainability, is a dashboard that gives businesses insight into how sustainable they are. The tool was developed based on the Global Sustainability Risk Indicator (GSRI), a risk model that ABN AMRO uses to assess the sustainability of companies applying for financing. GSRI contains a wealth of information, and ABN AMRO is eager to share that information with clients. Account managers can use CASY to engage lending clients in a strategic conversation about sustainability, during which, as Sander says, “we can offer clients tangible solutions and get down to work together”.

Sander emphasises that a strategic angle is important. “Knowledge is worthless if it isn’t used; you need to do something with it. As a bank, we’ll never claim that we know more about a sector than our clients do. But we do have insight into the playing field in which our clients operate and the sustainability developments taking place elsewhere within and outside their sectors. We use this information and the results produced by CASY about the company itself to explore strategic choices and business models with the client, as well as what the bank can do to help.”

Trends and innovations

Before meeting with the account manager, the client fills out a questionnaire, the answers to which are used to create a realistic picture of the company’s sustainability performance. The questions relate to issues such as materials used, waste and certification, and the results are compared with those of other businesses in the same sector. CASY also offers insight into market trends and innovations which the client, together with ABN AMRO, can use to take action. The ABN AMRO Sustainable Investment Tool (in Dutch) or, for example, a Business Innovation Workshop can produce extra advice or insight into the measures the company can take to improve its sustainability.

Some promising results have been achieved since CASY was introduced last year. After using the tool, a large hotel chain discovered that it would be possible, easy and profitable to upgrade a monumental building it owned in Amsterdam to energy label A. The chain has since decided to scan seventeen of its other locations.

“Clients are surprised – they think CASY is pretty special,” says Sander. “Normally, you sit down with a client when they need financing. This is a totally different reason for meeting up, and it leads to very different conversations and perspectives.” The implementation phase is in full swing. More than 500 ABN AMRO employees, including account managers, have been trained in using the CASY dashboard and in strategic brainstorming with clients. Next year, non-lending clients might be added and CASY will be made more broadly available, including online.

Future-proof business

CASY is not a goal, but a means to an end. Raising consciousness, challenging business clients, taking steps together, becoming future-proof – that’s what it’s all about. “A lot of businesses – and not just big companies – are becoming more sustainable. Their motivations vary: some are doing it from a marketing perspective, others because they believe in it. But in general, most are looking to be future-proof.” 

Sure, some businesses aren’t particularly interested in “all that sustainability stuff”. “At ABN AMRO, we stand for an inclusive approach. We’re trying to get all of our clients on board. If a client isn’t interested, they should ask themselves whether they’re doing business with the right bank. ABN AMRO wants to finance tomorrow’s businesses.”