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?UP, Orissa and WB are the focus states?

Herman Mulder, chairman of ABN-AMRO, discusses some critical issues on sustainable development with BS Srinivasalu Reddy.

india Updated: Apr 08, 2006 11:01 IST

Thereis no sign of the corporate world walking the same line in the case of sustainable development models, as yet. However, an experiment has been initiated by some forward looking institutions such as the Dutch ABN-Amro Bank in this direction. Herman Mulder, Group coordinator of sustainable development and chairman of ABN-AMRO Foundation, who is in India to review progress on this front, discusses some critical issues involved in pursuing this initiative with BS Srinivasalu Reddy. Excerpts:

The concept of sustainable development is there for a long time. But there is a perception that it is not suitable for business enterprises. Comment.

The objective of an enterprise is to do the right business. We are a business and not a development agency. But there is an increasing recognition in Brazil, China and India that you can run a business profitably only in a medium term without thinking about the planet and its people. My favourite saying is profit we make is not just coming from our own performance. The society and clients allow us to make it.

What are the basic tenets the programme hinges?

There are a number of them. We want to be transparent—we want to explain to stake holders what we are doing. We are interested in protecting our assets and not to be associated with projects that lead to incurring losses. We are committed to provide responsible financial services to our clients. Want to be an employer of choice. Addressing environmental concerns, in which we have involved our suppliers as well. And the last one is supporting the communities where we operate.

What is the status of micro finance activities you have initiated in India?

India is the second country where we have this initiative after Brazil. We have 18 NGOs as our partners for channelling micro finance in sev en states during the last 30 months. UP, Orissa and West Bengal are the focus states. Through these partners, we have an outstanding portfolio of Rs 86 crore involving 1.80 lakh beneficiaries, most of whom are women.

What were the challenges you have faced for enlisting the support of stakeholders?

The biggest two challenges were lying in convincing our colleagues and enlisting interest of clients in these activities. Convincing my colleagues took less effort than I thought. We have 1,00,000 employees located in about 60 countries. But the top-down pressure we have exercised on them brought in a new concept. The young among them were enthusiastic in raising environmental concerns. They said, “This is your bank today. But this bank will be mine later. Don’t look at what we have to do in the next quarter, but after 25 years, when I will be on the board.” That has become a powerful energiser.

First Published: Apr 08, 2006 11:01 IST