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Australia's best bank for CSR 2017: Bendigo and Adelaide Bank

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank’s boss Mike Hirst may well be the George C. Scott of Australian banking.

The actor Scott refused an Oscar for his title role in the 1970 film ‘Patton’ on the grounds that the award was recognition of something that shouldn’t require recognition. As Bendigo’s Hirst says of corporate social responsibility: “CSR has become what you write in an annual report about how wonderful you are. We don’t write any of that stuff. We like our deeds to talk for us.”

Indeed, tap CSR into the search window of Bendigo and Adelaide Bank’s website and after wading through the CVs of staff who have worked at the Australian company CSR Ltd, the former Colonial Sugar Refineries, there’s Hirst describing his bank’s business model.

That’s because Bendigo’s very raison d’etre is corporate and social responsibility, except it calls it ‘community and shared values’.

Bendigo is the bank that helped breathe new life into rural Australia by teaming up with local communities to bring financial services back into their towns.

Some 20 years after its first community bank, Bendigo now backs 320 across the country, returning around A$183 million ($138 million) to their communities.

That has been manifested in Bendigo backing thousands of community projects that are ordinarily the preserve of government: new health services, facilities for the elderly, scholarships, new parks and gardens, and helping to put small-town sporting clubs on the playing field.

“CSR too often gets defined as environmental and philanthropic,” says Hirst. “Ours is about helping people help themselves.”