The Public Function of Commercial Banks: CSR Comes to Rescue

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The Public Function of Commercial Banks: CSR Comes to Rescue
Maurits de Jonge, Student (University), Netherlands

A widely shared point of view is that banks should create long term shareholder value and also have a public function. This public function is getting increased attention as a result of recent societal developments.

Most commercial banks are primarily aiming at creating long-term shareholder value. I recommend such banks to reflect their public function through Corporate Social Responsibility and their core values. These core values can basically be applied at 3 levels: employees, executives and/or the organization as a whole. Typical core values include: sustainability, culture, socially responsible investing, good behavior, duty of care and integrity.

To ensure that there will be no neglect of the corporate responsibility or of the integrity of its employees and executives, several CSR instruments can be used:
  • INSTRUMENTS EMERGING FROM VARIOUS REGULATORS. Typically through legislation by national governments or through various directives and guidelines by international public bodies.
  • INSTRUMENTS EMERGING FROM SELF-REGULATION. For example, the Dutch Amendment Act Financial Markets of 2013 introduced an obligation for policy makers of financial institutions to take an Oath.
  • INSTRUMENTS EMERGING FROM BANKS THEMSELVES. Should such Oath not be imposed by the government or sector self-regulation, then banks themselves can make taking the Oath mandatory. Another instrument is the Code of Conduct of a bank, which can be continuously improved. Also banks can keep on pointing out the importance of the Code to their employees.
All things considered, banks should have more attention for using CSR to give substance to their public responsibilities. Where legislation ends, CSR comes to rescue.



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