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Ranked: WWF's top sustainable Swiss banks

We take a look at which Swiss banks came out on top for sustainable credentials.

In the first report of its kind, WWF Switzerland has ranked the sustainability of 15 Swiss retail banks.

The categories included Latecomers, Average, Ambitious, Pioneers and Visionary, with three banks emerging as leaders, all ranked Ambitious by WWF. None of the 15 banks studied made it above Ambitious. 

Here, we take a deeper dive into the report, hearing from the author and taking a closer look at the top three.

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In the first report of its kind, WWF Switzerland has ranked the sustainability of 15 Swiss retail banks.

The categories included Latecomers, Average, Ambitious, Pioneers and Visionary, with three banks emerging as leaders, all ranked Ambitious by WWF. None of the 15 banks studied made it above Ambitious. 

Here, we take a deeper dive into the report, hearing from the author and taking a closer look at the top three.

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A Trigger for Change

Claude Amstutz, co-author of the report and senior advisor for sustainable finance at WWF, said the report had been put together by a team of nine people from both WWF and Inrate over the course of about 12 months. 

Amstutz added the study had placed a clear emphasis on the environmental and social impact of the banks. In order to be considered a Pioneer or Visionary, the banks would have to show a holistic sustainability approach integrated into the core business.

'There is an urgent need for action in the core business of Swiss retail banks. The rating reports have proven to be a very strong tool to trigger change,' he said.

Amstutz also noted that the report has primarily been received with positivity, although there was also some disappointment among those who ended up at the lower end of the spectrum.

He said WWF will continue to work with these banks in the future to help them become more sustainable and plans to do another review in three years' time.

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Berner Kantonalbank

Berner Kantonalbank (BEKB) offers sustainable retirement funds, which head of quality management and sustainability Andreas Baumann said have been quite popular.

'They are attracting a great deal of interest from the bank's clients. By the end of 2017, around CHF 180 million had already been invested,' Baumann said. 

He noted that the bank's sustainability team has already worked with WWF to analyse and improve areas of the bank's sustainability, and that BEKB intends to continue its 'contructive and open co-operation'. 

BEKB's focus is now on expanding its sustainable product offering, particularly in savings. It also intends to certify compliance with 'Fair Compensation' and to obtain the 'Friendly Work Space' quality seal.

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Raiffeisen Group

The WWF study found that 54% of investment products and 92% of pillar three a/b pension products at Raiffeisen were sustainable. The authors noted that 'at only a few pioneering institutions do these products account for a higher share of assets under management.'

The bank also offers discounts for mortgages that finance energy-efficient buildings and advises customers on sustainability matters, according to a spokesperson.

The bank also said that it plans to take WWF's rating into account as it strengthens its sustainability performance in the future.

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Zürcher Kantonalbank

Zürcher Kantonalbank (ZKB) came out on top for sustainable savings products, offering the only one to be identified as 'Ambitious' by WWF. The report praised the product's aim to have a positive environmental impact, as well as its high degree of transparency regarding the use of funds.

The bank also offers several sustainable funds and favourable mortgage conditions for customers who choose to build or renovate in an environmentally friendly way. 

A spokesperson said the bank is working with WWF and several other groups to identify and pursue potential improvements to its long-term sustainability policy. 

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