Principles for Responsible Banking build new pathway for banks to collectively accelerate action on universal financial inclusion

  • The Principles for Responsible Banking’s Commitment to Financial Health and Inclusion is a first-of-its-kind accelerator initiative of the banking sector to promote universal financial inclusion and health
  • 28 signatory banks have joined the leadership group by signing the Commitment
  • Targets are to be set and published within 18 months from signing, with annual reporting requirement thereafter

Geneva, 2 December 2021 – A group of 28 banks under the Principles for Responsible Banking (PRB) has founded a first-of-its-kind commitment to promote universal financial inclusion and foster a banking sector that supports the financial health of customers. This marks the start of a collective journey to accelerate action on financial health and inclusion, alongside some other critical topics of our times, such as climate change, nature loss and pollution.

This comes also as a follow-up to the PRB Collective Progress Report released in October, in which financial inclusion was one of the top three sustainability challenges identified by signatory banks as areas in which they can have the most impact – after climate mitigation and adaptation. Through PRB working groups, banks will also define measurements of success, share current best practices and successful approaches to financial inclusion to see how they might be further improved and adopted more widely across the sector.

Accelerating action to ensure universal financial inclusion and financial health of all individuals is of paramount importance in the fight against inequalities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Globally, around 1.7 billion adults are without a bank account, which means they are unlikely to be able to save securely or to have access to emergency credit. Such inaccessibility to financial products and services makes it more challenging to be financially resilient in times of difficulty. It excludes people from opportunities to secure and maintain their standard of living and prevents them from taking steps to improve their financial health, such as long-term financial planning, access to credit and insurance[1].

“The Principles provide an accountable framework for banks to collectively accelerate action and this is the first time that banks have come together in this way to further drive financial inclusion. By developing an effective and consistent approach, they will be able to establish a pathway of best practice for others to follow worldwide. Amidst rising global inequalities, exacerbated by COVID-19, this commitment recognises the critical role of financial intermediaries in facilitating inclusive societies founded on human dignity, which are necessary for achieving shared prosperity for both current and future generations” said Eric Usher, Head of UNEP FI.

Signatory banks joining this leadership group will set targets within 18 months of signing. The targets will be supported by measures that seek to drive the necessary changes in one or more of these areas: financial and non-financial products and services, internal processes, data analytics and partnerships. The changes could include affordable bank accounts, accessible ways of making payments, suitable credit offerings, financial education, as well as improved credit and risk policies to mitigate over-indebtedness, among many others. Banks will publish their targets within 18 months and report on them annually thereafter, ensuring a high level of transparency of their progress.

The Commitment, which focuses on segments such as unbanked, formerly-banked and underbanked individuals, households, micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, will help banks contribute to creating and maintaining inclusive societies. In doing so, it will contribute to several United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, including addressing poverty (SDG1); gender equality (SDG5); decent work and economic growth (SDG8) and reduced inequality (SDG10). One recent study indicated that improving the availability and accessibility of affordable financial products and services could increase GDP in developing economies by up to 14% and in frontier markets by 30%[2].


[1] Source: Global Fintex Database Report 2017, World Bank

[2] Source: Innovation in Financial Inclusion: revenue growth through innovation inclusion (2018), EY

List of committed signatory banks

Akbank, Turkey

An Post, Ireland

Banco Hipotecario de El Salvador S.A., El Salvador

Banco Pichincha, Ecuador

Bancolombia, Colombia

Bank of Industry, Nigeria

Bank of Ireland Group, Ireland

Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA), Spain

Banco Compartamos, Mexico

BNP Paribas, France

CaixaBank, Spain

Commercial International Bank (CIB), Egypt

Coopeservidores, Costa Rica

Credit Mutuel, France

Desjardins Group, Canada

De Volksbank, Netherlands

Erste Group Bank AG, Austria

Gatehouse Bank, United Kingdom

Government Savings Bank, Thailand

Industrial Bank of Korea, South Korea

ING, Netherlands

La Banque Postale, France

Piraeus Financial Holdings, Greece

Sovcombank, Russia

Suncorp Bank, Australia

UniCredit, Italy

Vancouver City Savings Credit Union (Vancity), Canada

Yapı Kredi, Turkey

About the Principles for Responsible Banking

The Principles for Responsible Banking are a unique framework for ensuring that signatory banks’ strategy and practice align with the vision society has set out for its future in the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement. The Principles were created in 2019 through a partnership between founding banks and the United Nations, and are designed to bring purpose, vision and ambition to sustainable finance. Signatory banks commit to embedding these Principles across all business areas, at the strategic, portfolio and transactional levels. Over 250 banks representing over 40% of banking assets worldwide have now joined this movement for change and embarked on their 4-year journeys of impact analysis, target setting and reporting.

About the United Nations Environment Programme Initiative

United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) is a partnership between UNEP and the global financial sector to mobilize private sector finance for sustainable development. UNEP FI works with more than 400 members – banks, insurers, and investors – and over 100 supporting institutions – to help create a financial sector that serves people and planet while delivering positive impacts. UNEP FI aims to inspire, inform and enable financial institutions to improve people’s quality of life without compromising that of future generations. By leveraging the UN’s role, UNEP FI accelerates sustainable finance.

About the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.

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