If they act sustainably, I believe, large established companies can make a real impact. I wanted to be part of an organisation where I could work from within to help shape the transition from normal to sustainable operations. That is my job now as Sustainability Manager at ABN AMRO, where I draw on the experience that I gained through my own NGO in Guatemala.
We feel that the sustainable options should not exist side-by-side with normal processes: instead, those core processes should become more sustainable.
Annemiek Dresen Sustainability Manager at Retail & Private Banking
Making a difference in Guatemala
I first became involved in purely sustainable activities through Niños de Guatemala, an NGO that I launched with two other people in 2006. Our focus was on education and on promoting entrepreneurship in disadvantaged communities in Guatemala. From 2007 until 2011 I lived and worked in Guatemala, setting up the organisation and building our first school. Once the organisation was strong enough to stand on its own two feet I came home to the Netherlands, to learn more about the normal corporate world and make a sustainable impact there. With this in mind I joined ABN AMRO as a trainee.
In at the deep end
I joined ABN AMRO in 2011, starting in the traineeship programme: around twenty of us, fresh-faced and dreaming of making a difference at the ‘new integrated bank’. I loved my traineeship. It was an opportunity to work on different projects at the bank, and I was thrown in at the deep end from day one: I did everything from enabling corporate banking in New York to setting up strategic projects in Luxembourg.
Now, as Sustainability Manager at Retail & Private Banking, I have returned to my first love: sustainability. Our Retail & Private Banking team is made up of people from all around the world: from Hong Kong and Singapore to our branches in Zeist and other Dutch towns. The dynamics are wonderful and our work is highly relevant and topical. Take the climate change conference in Paris for example: our job is to translate the results of that summit to our Retail & Private Banking work and investments. Never a dull moment!
Making a difference at the bank
In my job as Sustainability Manager I am part of a small team. We focus on integrating sustainability into the products that we offer retail and private clients. This involves everything from structuring sustainable investment opportunities to finding ways to make the homes of our mortgage clients more energy-efficient. My job is not your average ‘banking job’. I am proud to be making a real difference now – little by little perhaps, but a difference nonetheless. For example, my work helped to boost ABN AMRO’s sustainable investments by 1 billion euros in 2015 to a total of 6.4 billion euros.
More sustainable processes
We believe passionately in what we are doing. We want the money with which the bank has been entrusted to be invested in the right things. We do not invest in controversial weapons, for example, and we work hard to create solutions that have a positive environmental, social and governmental impact. We feel that the sustainable options should not exist side-by-side with normal processes: instead, those core processes should become more sustainable. This is a vital principle in what we do. ABN AMRO handles vast sums of money. Those funds should be invested in ways that not only generate returns for our clients, but also have a positive social or environmental impact. Only then can we say that we are really making a difference.