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Korea's best bank for CSR 2018: Shinhan Bank

Shinhan Bank

Proving one’s worth in terms of corporate social responsibility isn’t easy. Some banks pay the concept little more than lip service or ignore it altogether. At the other extreme, PR-conscious global banks can often overshadow the quieter success stories that are woven by smaller regional or local lenders.

But not always. Shinhan Bank’s approach to acting and thinking as a responsible institutional citizen is to be commended and even emulated. The Seoul-based lender issued its first annual CSR report in 2005, since when it has made at least one big new annual CSR-related change, addition or action. In 2008, it joined the UN’s Global Compact, a non-binding accord encouraging global firms to adopt sustainable and responsible policies. Three years on, it adopted the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards that help corporates, sovereigns and institutions to understand their impact on issues ranging from corruption to climate change. Two years after that, it was included for the first time in the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices.

And the bank’s altruism is keenly felt at the local as well as the macro level. Its Smile Finance Foundation helps financially vulnerable people trapped in a low-income, low-credit cycle to take out micro loans to buy essential goods or build a small business. Since 2009, the foundation has channelled W103 billion ($91 million) to 7,366 people.

Shinhan’s desire to help runs deep and takes many forms. Its ‘Arumin financial expedition’ programme provides financial literacy training to thousands of middle-school children each year, while its ‘Happy silver financial class’ extends financial help to tens of thousands of senior citizens, including invaluable advice regarding how to save for a long retirement. And it offers services tailored to blue-collar workers, helping them to borrow, save, invest and manage debts.

Anyone with a spare hour on his or her hands could do worse than read the bank’s latest CSR report. It isn’t a page-turner and it runs to 116 pages, but it demonstrates how valuable a bank can be, when it really commits.

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