Anton Kolarik, head of the Identity & Communications division, on environmental protection, sustainability, traditions and prospects for the future.
"World Savings Day = Energy Savings Day was the motto of World Savings Day at Zentralsparkasse in 1979. Does the topic of environmental protection have such a long tradition at Bank Austria?
Yes, this topic has a long tradition at all three banks, starting at Z through to Länderbank and all the way up to Creditanstalt. All of the banks had environmental officers and environmental working groups.
Bank Austria and Creditanstalt jointly signed the UNEP Statement by Financial Institutions on the Environment and Sustainable Development back in 1993 – at the time, they were the only Austrian banks to do so. This demonstrates how this tradition was embodied by all of the institutions that preceded us.
The following was written in an issue of the bank’s customer newsletter in 1984: "Environmental protection has become a key issue in recent years." This quote is still relevant today, 25 years later. Has anything changed at all?
The scope has changed. Back then, the focus was on the field of ecology. For example, we gave environmental awards to entrepreneurs who used production methods that were especially environmentally friendly or brought environmentally friendly products to the market.
Today, we’re a step further: We’re moving away from this purely ecological focus towards a comprehensive perspective that is often described as sustainability. This means that we are trying to incorporate this idea of sustainability throughout our company. We are no longer focusing on just the environment.
Although we have not completely implemented everything yet, the basic idea today is as follows: We really have to integrate the aspect of sustainability into every area of the company – from the employees to the product to the way we present ourselves to society.
You’ve experienced this development up close and personal: In the late 1980s you were the environmental officer at Z, and now you’re a division head at Bank Austria responsible for corporate sustainability among other things. Which memories stand out for you?
I look back fondly on the sense of hope that prevailed at the bank 20 years ago: on the environmental working group that we developed a special logo with and on the thousands of ideas we came up with and implemented back then – that was definitely the first major milestone. I really had the feeling that the entire bank was overcome with this tremendous sense of hope.
And now I’m seeing it all once again: I see a great deal of interest among the colleagues, but also among the customers. If you look at our most recent workshops, I get the feeling that the customers are very interested in getting into contact with Bank Austria and helping to shape our efforts.
Major projects are being launched at the moment – also within UniCredit Group as a whole. This shows that this issue is gaining in significance. Sustainability and responsibility have a long tradition at our company, and their importance will continue to grow in the future.
Thank you for the interview, Mr. Kolarik!