Your significant other bank

Sunday 23 May 2010, by Hege Hjerto, Mansur Peleteiro Colom, Melanie Richtsteig, Paula Antaki Moussatch

3 inspired

Main facts about the activities of the company

Rabobank Group is an international financial services provider operating on the basis of cooperative principles. It offers retail banking, wholesale banking, asset management, leasing and real estate services. Focus is on all-finance services in the Netherlands and on food & agri internationally. Rabobank Group is comprised of 147 independent local Rabobanks plus Rabobank Nederland, their central organisation, and a number of subsidiaries. The group entities maintain strong mutual ties.
Rabobank has a AAA credit-rating, is considered among the top 10 safest banks in the world, and enjoys an award-winning sustainability rating in economic, environmental, and social categories.
The Rabobank Group believes that sustainable development of wealth and prosperity demands a responsible approach to nature and the environment, and is dedicated to reflecting this belief in its activities.
Rabobank has now built up a solid market position in a number of developed and ?emerging? countries and a number of new markets are scheduled for similar investment in the coming years.
Costumer Value
Rabobank attaches great value to having and keeping satisfied customers. That is why one of its core objectives is to create the highest possible customer value. This is reflected in the degree of customer satisfaction and loyalty. Rabobank is critical of itself and is keen to learn from clients what it does well and what could be improved.
Food and Agribusiness
Sustained autonomous growth is a leading factor in the strategic course that Rabobank Group aims to steer in the coming years. This strategy centres around their core competence: Food & Agribusiness. Rabobank has been financing food and agriculture for over a century, so they have the experience and knowledge to understand the distinctive needs of agribusiness clients, and the cyclical nature of agriculture.
1. Aiming for food safety and food security.
2. Using natural resources responsibly.
3. Contributing to enabling citizens and consumers to make well-considered choices.
4. Treating animals responsibly.
5. Promoting social welfare.
Rabobank Foundation
The Rabobank Foundation is committed to improving the lives of underprivileged and disadvantaged groups of people in society by providing them with the opportunity to live full and independent lives. This commitment to making a difference applies in equal measure to the activities that the Rabobank Foundation undertakes in the Netherlands and in developing countries. The foundation furthermore works in close and intensive partnership with organisations that share its vision and mission based on ?development from the bottom up?. This makes it possible to create real synergy by deploying relatively limited resources and manpower.


Rabobank is the largest sponsor of sport and culture in the Netherlands. It has selected three branches of sport to focus its sponsorship activities on: cycling, equestrian sports and hockey. Cultural sponsorship provides excellent opportunities for demonstrating Rabobank?s versatility and social involvement.

The ethical challenges the company is addressing

Rabobank is addressing several different ethical issues. Among them are the financing of the production of foie gras and fur, offering bank accounts to prostitutes, gambling machine trade, medicinal cannabis, and the issue of being socially responsible in their dealings with vulnerable customers. They also address the issues with sponsoring sports and sustainable fishing and farming. Sustainability is actually used as a measure in all activities and operations in the Rabobank group.
When choosing to engage in various investments, Rabobank has a thorough approach. They evaluate potential businesses by using negative screening as well as positive screening, also named ?best in class?. The negative screening is executed by discarding all investments based on undesirable forms of business operations. Examples are activities that include violations of human rights or controversial production processes. In the positive screening, Rabobank selects businesses that demonstrate the best CSR policy in their business.
The Ethics Committee (established by the Rabobank Group in 1998) is given an advisory role within the group. This is where the ethical challenges and issues that the Rabobank Group faces are assessed and it is the committee that makes the final recommendations.
-  On the issue of financing the production of foie gras, the committee recommended not financing this industry. The decision was based on the lack of an alternative animal-friendly feeding method. Foie gras is not served within Rabobank.
-  In the case of accepting prostitutes as customers, the committee has reached the conclusion to assess each company and application individually. This is based on the opinion that every private individual should have access to basic banking services. At the same time they wish to consider the very thin line between the sex industry and criminal circles.
-  Financing gambling machine trade is, under certain conditions, considered ethically acceptable by the committee. The conditions are that the business applying for financial services operates within the law, and that it acts in a responsible way, both from an ethical viewpoint as well as from a banking viewpoint and that this is to be continued in the future.
-  The financing of medicinal cannabis is another issue where the committee has decided their actions are ethically responsible, again under specific conditions. The guidelines in this case are the regulations imposed by the Dutch government.
-  Regarding the duty of care for vulnerable customers, the issue arose at a local member Rabobank. The local bank made the decision that an elderly customer was too mentally weak to consent to give power of attorney to her brother. The Ethical Committee supported this decision. When the brother sued the local member Rabobank, the woman was revealed to be too confused to give formal consent, and the court consequently ruled in favor of the local member Rabobank.

The Rabobank group sponsors professional cycling teams, but also promotes and supports recreational cycling in the Netherlands. On the issue of sponsoring professional teams, they have decided that their sponsorship can be defended ethically, although they realize and accept that there are a number of thorny issues. They exert a zero tolerance policy on doping, and when the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) issued a warning to Michael Rasmussen, a member of the Rabo Cycling team, Rabobank officially stated that they supported the team?s decision to pull Rasmussen out of the competition and to immediately dismiss him from the team.
Another ethical dilemma the Rabobank Group addresses is whether to issue loans to the fishing sector. It uses official research and the findings of environmental groups to acquire a good understanding of what is the right course of action. In 2007 a sector policy document was developed, where unwanted practices in fishing and fish farming is stated.
Rabobank also devotes special attention to water-heavy agriculture, especially the cotton sector. The bank demands responsible use of water from their clients and stresses the necessity of increasing efficiency.
In the daily operations of the Rabobank Group the ethical challenges are to assure sustainability in all possible ways. Their sustainable business operations comprise four steps:
? We aim to limit use and consumption
? We seek to use the things we must use as efficiently as possible
? We prefer to use sustainable sources/sustainable products and services
? We compensate the remaining CO2 emissions from our own energy consumption
They aim to minimize their climate footprint, and have an objective of using green energy where possible. They also have a monitoring and savings program to ensure that no energy is being wasted.
What makes us believe this company is really ethical and why we trust it
It is necessary to have a look at the company?s mission statement, due to the fact that it provides evidence on the company?s ethical behavior. The company intends to help the community in which it operates, not only by providing financial services but also by improving the infrastructure and attending to the community where it operates. Mission statement: ?In the Netherlands and beyond, our banking practices always take a responsible approach to the development of wealth and prosperity. We respect the environment and the differing cultures and customs of the countries we operate in and we understand that maintaining our solvency and liquidity is a prerequisite for continuity.?
The company also engages in transparent business activities and strives to achieve sustainability and socially responsible business practices. Proof of this is that the company has been categorized into the A+ classification for the 2008 sustainability report by the Global reporting initiative. Furthermore, it ranked as the first place in the 2008 transparency benchmark awards which stands for the most transparent as well as comprehensive sustainability report presented by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs.
Rabobank became aware of the crucial role that ethics and moral play in social norms and standards. This is true especially for the banking business or financial service area since often major interests are involved. In this way the Ethics Committee was established in 1998 to be able to take a clear position on the topic of ethics as well as solve ethical dilemmas. Answers are found by adhering to the company?s own code of conduct and internal guidelines as well as external rules of conduct. Examples include the foie gras business where a French company asked financing help of the company. From a financial perspective there seemed to be no inherent problem. However, the ethics committee was obliged to look at it from a social perspective, where it was found out that the feeding method caused serious health and welfare problems. In addition the foie gras production is forbidden in a large number of European countries. It was established that the treatment of animals in such a manner contravenes the Dutch legislation as well as the principles of the organization, which is why it was decided not to aid in financing. This serves as evidence to see that Rabobank stresses ethical principles as well as ethical behavior in its operations.
Apart from this Rabobank has the opinion that all sections of society should be included. The main criteria to decide whether a customer should be served, is done on the basis of creditworthiness and morality. In this way a standard assessment process is carried out as well as a credit assessment where 10 CSR issues are of true concern. After this assessment it will be clear whether the customer is immoral or not. Rabobank refuses to do business with immoral suppliers and customers. A further criterion for the organization to start business with a partner is the respect of human rights, which forms part of the organization?s code of conduct. This also means that the bank is not doing business in those countries where human right commitments cannot be complied vis a vis employees and where the conditions inhibits the free choice of business partners.
Furthermore the bank takes into consideration which direct and indirect consequences its actions and activities may have as well as the fact that legislation and regulation is strictly adhered to. In this way the company only invests in organizations which are not in conflict with its values as well as only lends to those businesses and charities who provide a certain social or ecological benefit.
Sustainability in business has been the focus of the company for many years. The themes can be classified into 4 sub-themes. The first one deals with the safe and sustainable food supply. This was recognized as a need since the demand for food is increasing due to the explosive growth in population size. However, the amount of available agricultural land is decreasing. Its aim is to make the food and agricultural business sustainable. In this way it has projects for example in Brazil where it works in partnership with nature conservation organizations and farmers to restore the environment.
The second theme deals with clean production methods and sustainable energy. The company supports the innovation of production methods and the development as well as use of sustainable energy. Evidence to proof their ethical behavior is the use of green electricity in the company as well as the overall reduction in the consumption of energy. In this way 85% of the enery used is green electricity and biogas accounts for half of the natural gas usage. The Dutch Greentech Fund concentrates on activities including sustainable energy. It furthermore adheres to stringent sustainability criteria.


As a necessary step in making the food and agribusiness sector more sustainable, Rabobank Group could support innovations in water technology to stimulate water reuse and improve water efficiency.
More than 70% of the world?s water is used to grow and process food. Water is especially scarce in countries like India, China, Australia and the U.S. which also happen to be important markets for Rabobank. Rabobank is looking at water as being an investment for the future. The agricultural sector is by far the largest user of water. Since there is a huge amount of water spillage, there exist a lot of opportunities to improve water efficiency. As one of the world?s leading banks in food and agribusiness, Rabobank should have a commitment and responsibility in the water sector as well.
To improve the current situation, Rabobank has to be more clear on where both existing clients and the bank are running risks related to water. This also entails the comprehension of where water is being used in their clients? production processes and where their clients are at risk within the value chain. It would be interesting to start in areas where they are most heavily involved in businesses related to food and agriculture, and where the water issues are the most acute.
Also Rabobank Group is able to exercise considerable influence on the environmental and social aspects of both the production processes and the products procured. Then it can pursue an active policy aimed at promoting the use of sustainable energy. The organisation could also be dedicated to reducing current energy consumption as much as possible. This would translate into taking an energy efficient approach, preferably by using renewable sources and sustainable products and services.



Location: Netherlands

Sector: international financial services provider

Official website: http://www.rabobank.com/content/

Key figures:

Amounts in millions of euros
2009 2008

Income 11,867 11,652
Net profi t 2.288 2,754

Local Rabobanks 147 153
Countries Rabobank International 30 28
Places of business Rabobank International 528 506
Countries Rabobank Group* 48 46
Places of business Rabobank Group 624 569

Nbr. visits: 2136

Nbr. inspires: 3