Working with customers to tackle the big issues of our time

A man looking out at the coastline

Every day we are invited into our customers’ financial worlds – a huge privilege that comes with great responsibility.

Not only in terms of achieving good financial outcomes for our customers, but when it comes to the role we play as an organisation in helping people realise their dreams and having a positive impact on the world we live in.

As one of New Zealand’s largest banks, we have an important role to help confront the big issues of our time, and make our impact significant, and today we’re committing to tackling two of the biggest issues of our time: climate change and inequality.

To do this, we are adopting two principles we see as vital to the long-term prosperity of our country:

  • Kaitiakitanga, accelerating the transition to a low emissions economy that supports the regeneration of the natural environment, and;
  • Manaakitanga, our desire to grow the long-term social and financial wellbeing of all New Zealanders.

Our Kaitiakitanga principle will mean changes to the way we work, lend and invest in order to support New Zealand’s Zero Carbon Act and our country’s commitment to the Paris Accord to halt global warming levels to 1.5 degrees.

As part of this, we’ have committed to delivering $10 billion in sustainable finance over the next five years and to reporting on climate-related financial risks. We will take a strong leadership role in supporting businesses who share our aspiration to transition to a low carbon economy, particularly New Zealand’s SMEs – , 100,000 of whom we’ will work with to manage, reduce and report their emissions and build more sustainable, profitable businesses.

In tackling climate change, we will not forget action needed to support the growth of the social and financial wellbeing of New Zealanders – a particularly pressing concern given the challenges wrought upon the world by COVID-19.

We will continue to provide support through our Community Finance initiative, which has seen us partner with a number of community organisations to offer people on limited incomes fee-free, low-interest and no-interest loans. We’ve now extended their Community Finance programme, allowing $5 million of no-interest loans to be used by families that were financially impacted by COVID-19.

Although silver linings are hard to find with COVID-19, we have seen the rapid adoption of digital and online technology. While many have found the transition to increasingly digital ways of working seamless, there are those that find it difficult and we’re working to ensure people are not left behind because of a lack of digital skills. We will build on initiatives such as our dedicated Over 70s phone line and BNZ’s Scam Savvy to support people to feel safe and capable online, and participate in an increasingly digital world.

We will also step up our support for people in vulnerable circumstances. Everyone can have a moment of vulnerability – it just takes one, unexpected life event. We will partner with social organisations across our country to tackle some of the toughest issues we face such as domestic and economic abuse, inadequate housing and access to finance to support families and job seekers.

This work is important and urgent. The government has just this month declared a climate emergency and the change needed to tackle environmental and societal issues is going to require proactivity from all of us as to achieve our ambitious targets. 

We are building a new Bank of New Zealand that stands for change that benefits us all. You can find out more about it here.