Conister Bank is pledging its commitment to a sustainable future both for itself and the businesses it supports.
Following a tumultuous year for the island that has seen the independent bank underline its place in supporting the Manx community, Conister is determinedly focussing on the years ahead.
The bank aims to provide financial options to businesses and individual customers to support an environmental, sustainable and resilient future.
It will promote clean energy, both in the working practices
at its Douglas office and in encouraging other businesses to follow suit and aims to be an active participant in reducing the environmental impact of how we live and work.
Managing Director Douglas Grant said: ‘While we may not be able to change the world on our own what we can do is make a positive difference.
‘Everybody in this business – anybody in business – can make a difference. We will reduce our own carbon footprint and hope that one day to become carbon neutral.
‘We are looking at ourselves first but then we are also looking our client base and how we can help our customers to achieve the same.’
A key component of achieving the aims will be to try to make things more straightforward for those looking to work towards a better future.
He said there was sometimes confusion surrounding the language when Green Finance was discussed, with different people, different sectors and different jurisdictions placing their own interpretation.
‘We want to cut through all that noise and find out how we can help Government, companies and individuals that are investing in anything they believe to be ‘green’.
He said that in other jurisdictions some schemes to support moves towards a sustainable future had come up against unintentional hurdles. For instance, a grant scheme to support work to improve energy efficiency in the home, had suffered delays and a lack of take-up because the potential recipients of grants had to demonstrate a significant reduction in costs before the grant for work carried out would be paid.
That would not be the case in the support offered by Conister Bank.
‘We want to help in ways that are more straight forward,’ he said. And Douglas said it will be more than just saying the right words.
This year Conister Bank is implementing a Green Finance Strategy committed to sustainability.
Despite a year of upheaval caused by the coronavirus, Conister Bank was at the forefront of support to the island’s businesses, both on its own, and by supporting Government initiatives. Conister will again stand-up and be at the forefront in establishing and financing the island’s Green Finance agenda.
‘We want to be part of the solution,’ said Douglas. ‘The pandemic has changed the business landscape but it cannot be allowed to reduce our efforts to deal with the climate crisis.
He added: ‘The most significant contribution we can make to tackling climate change, as a bank, is to help finance the transition to net zero carbon.
‘Progress is always possible. We aim to support the change- makers and, ourselves, be lead advocates for sustainable change, using our expertise, established relationships and sector knowledge.’
The bank wants to raise awareness of Green Finance opportunities and to give a sense of responsibility throughout its customer base and the business sector, to show that everyone can play their part.
The approach will see the bank apply the same principles to its own operations and among its staff, including a pledge to reduce Conister Bank’s own carbon footprint by 15% within the next three years.
‘Long-term, as well as improving how we operate and leading to a better working environment, we believe it will create better value for shareholders – and society,’ said Douglas.
In terms of the busines offering, Conister Bank will measure success not only from the financial value created by new offerings, but the value for society.
It will measure the environmental impact, social impact and governance of its services.Conister Bank’s Green Finance approach will see it provide financial options to local businesses and home-owners to support then secure an environmental, sustainable and resilient future and growth via renewable energy.
It is in our interests – as well as everybody else’s – to stand up and to take action to ensure we all have a sustainable future
It will see new products launched to enable consumers
to make the switch to a more energy efficient operation, covering a range of opportunities including retrofit funding for home and business owners, investment in renewables, renewables and recycling initiatives.
‘We may be a small island but we can make a big difference,’ said Douglas. ‘It is easy to think, “What I do won’t make any difference,” but that is not the case. Each business, each individual can make a difference.
‘We want to help all of our clients to make decisions that contribute towards a more sustainable future not only for them, but for the Manx community as a whole.’
At the same time, the bank will use its brand to promote clean energy and be an active participant in reducing environmental impact.
It is in keeping with Conister Bank’s position at the centre of the Manx community that it has put itself at the forefront of Green Finance initiatives in the island.
Last year saw Conister Bank celebrate its 85th anniversary in business, originally starting under the name Conister Trust.
It has been a constant and reassuring Manx presence in times of crisis, ranging from the Second World War to the current global pandemic.
As an illustration of business leader role in the community, last year Conister Bank set aside £10 million to provide loans of up to £25,000 for businesses negatively impacted by Covid-19 and the cancellation of the TT.
‘At Conister Bank, we have always felt a responsibility to the community we serve, whether it be dealing with the impact of
the pandemic or helping to build a better future,’ said Douglas.
As well as committing to the Green Finance and renewables industry, the bank – which started in December 1935, will improve its lending proposition.
Douglas said: ‘We have always placed the customer at the centre of everything we do and taking these steps on Green Finance are a continuation of that.
‘We are in the business of finding products that work for our clients and our community.’
The past year has given the bank’s management plenty of time to reflect on the work environment.
An awareness of the importance of a sustainable business future became even clearer.
It also demonstrated the importance of the work environment for staff. While the Isle of Man has not suffered the same level of lockdown restriction as the UK, particularly in terms of the impact on workplaces, Douglas believes it will still lead to changes in working practices, for the better.
Staff welfare, for instance, needs to be at the forefront, and an understanding that different people may need support in different ways.
Douglas said it became clear that there was no age limit – in either direction – on who might struggle with lockdown. Younger staff members who had their social lives blocked suddenly were as likely, if not more likely, to suffer from loneliness as older people.
It became important to ensure that regular contact was kept between staff members, as much for their wellbeing as for work purposes.
With the likelihood that many businesses will never return to fully office-based working practices, that will be something Conister Bank will keep in mind for future planning.
‘We have learned a lot about what really matters in the past year,’ said Douglas. ‘In terms of what is important for staff and customers and the areas in which they need support.
‘We have also seen the resilience of Manx business during this time, plus the incredible strength of our community.
‘That emphasises further the importance of ensuring that we play our part in securing a sustainable future and that, as a bank that has always been there to serve the Manx community, we help others to do the same.’
It will be done in a way that reflects Conister Bank’s core values of working together, shaping the future with a customer centric approach.
As an independent bank, Conister is able to tailor products to the specific needs of the island’s businesses and community. That showed itself through its support for Manx businesses through the pandemic and its continuing impact and will again be at the forefront of its Green Finance strategy.
‘We are very proud of our history of supporting the Isle of Man community, both its businesses and its people,’ said Douglas.
‘At the end of the day, whether it is big business, small business or just an individual, it always comes down to the fact that people matter.
‘There is not a single business in the island, or in the world, that is not owned by people. Those people employ people. They are owners, managers, employees. They are our community, our Isle of Man.
‘A prosperous community allows for a prosperous bank. The two are totally hand in glove. It is in our interests – as well as everybody else’s – to stand up and to take action to ensure we all have a sustainable future.