Sustainability

Strategy

The way Helaba sees itself is characterised by a sense of responsibility towards society and the environment. We consider supporting prosperity and the common good as well as conserving the basic resources needed for life as an obligation inherent upon us as a company. Sustainability in the sense of ecological and social responsibility is an integral component of our Group’s binding business strategy.

The entire Helaba Group is committed to the ten principles of the UN Global Compact. It therefore pledges to protect human and labour rights, to reject forced and child labour as well as corruption and to support environmentally-friendly technologies in the scope of its entire business activities.

In addition, we are committed to observing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the core labour standards of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as well as the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

Our business strategy contains a clear commitment to protecting the climate.

Michael Seibel
Sustainability Officer

Concept

In 2017, Helaba developed its most important sustainability criteria in a multi-stage process, in which we also involved our relevant stakeholder groups. A materiality analysis served as a starting point from which to integrate significant sustainability topics into our business activities. We then developed goals on the basis of this materiality analysis and focal topics derived therefrom.

Putting sustainability into action

Helaba’s Sustainability Team has a wide variety of tasks: it formulates the sustainability strategy, develops and updates the sustainability principles, and is responsible for maintaining a dialogue with the sustainability rating agencies. It takes part in both ongoing and new sustainability projects of the Bank, e.g. sharpening the focus of sustainability-related aspects of the credit risk strategy and broadening the scope of sustainability reporting. Beyond that, the team bears responsibility for analysing regulatory developments relating to sustainability, e.g. assessing the consequences of the EU’s Financing Sustainable Growth action plan on the Bank and submitting corresponding proposals for implementation.

Goals

We pursue four key sustainability goals:

Business Performance

Customer focus: Helaba strives to be a principal bank and thus a long-term preferred partner in providing financial solutions for our target cus-tomers. Our strategic aim is to further expand our position as a leading S-Group bank for German Sparkassen and to permanently integrate ourselves into the Sparkassen organisation.

Brand and product responsibility: With its conservative risk profile, Helaba is committed to fully protecting the interests of its clients and is active in the market as a reliable partner oriented to the long term. By strictly adhering to all statutory and regulatory requirements in its relation-ships with customers and consumers, Helaba safeguards its own reputational capital and fulfils the high expectations of a public law credit institution.

Results-­based business activities

Sustainability in business processes: Helaba strives to achieve sustainability in its business processes. In the course of this, it defines, im-plements and continually optimises sustainability criteria in its core business activities.

Sustainable real estate business: In Real Estate Lending and Real Estate Management, Helaba and its subsidiaries take binding sustainability criteria into account in the planning, financing and management of real estate projects.

Responsible corporate governance

Compliance: Adherence to laws, guidelines and voluntary commitments, especially conducting business with integrity and preventing corruption, are among Helaba’s fundamental principles.
Transparency: Actively and openly communicating corporate values, proper conduct, policy positions and decisions, both inside and outside the company, guarantees transparency and secures the trust of important stakeholders.

A corporate culture that appreciates its workforce


Mutual respect in working together: Helaba’s working environment is characterised by respect, tolerance and trust. Regardless of origin or belief, all members of staff relate to each other in a respectful way, free from any kind of unfairness or discrimination.

Employer branding and staff retention: As a provider of specialist financial services, Helaba is able to gain suitable and qualified employees and to retain them for the long term.

Qualification: Our managers support their staff by delegating challenging tasks to them and providing them with regular feedback. Furthermore, Helaba offers a broad range of training and development opportunities in order to maintain the employability of our staff until they retire and to increase the attractiveness of the bank as an employer.

Progress in the achievement of the goals mentioned above is regularly reviewed by the relevant departments. In addition, we carry out surveys among our staff to evaluate our corporate culture and identify potential for improvement.

Materiality

We took a systematic approach to identifying our most important sustainability issues. After an initial stock-take, we analysed the internal and external expectations of stakeholders.

For the external analysis, we took into account the following sustainability standards, sector-specific guidelines and relevant rating requirements, among other things:

  • Global Reporting Initiative (incl. sector supplements for the financial services, construction and real estate sectors)
  • German Sustainability Code (incl. guidelines for Sparkassen and guidelines of the central real estate committee)
  • Sustainability criteria of rating agencies
  • Studies and reports
  • Assessment criteria of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI)
  • Criteria of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (financial sector benchmark, real estate industry benchmark)
  • Benchmark analyses

We evaluated, detailed and supplemented issues arising from this analysis according to their relevance for Helaba’s business activities and in respect of opportunities and risks for our sustainability strategy.

With the help of this analysis, we identified six key fields with a total of 20 sustainability topics that were specific to and relevant for Helaba. In the course of structured interviews with the bank’s managerial staff, we assessed and prioritised these topics. This process resulted in nine topics that were identified as materially significant for Helaba:

  • Customer focus
  • Brand and product responsibility
  • Sustainability in business processes
  • Sustainable real estate business
  • Compliance
  • Transparency
  • Mutual respect in working together
  • Employer branding and staff retention
  • HR development

The results form the basis for reporting and the foundation on which Helaba will define its sustainability goals for a number of years.

The following materiality matrix shows what topics Helaba and its stakeholders consider to be significant

Helaba Materiality Matrix

Stake­hol­der

Helaba takes pride in having solid and long-term relationships with its stakeholders. For this reason, we maintain a continuous exchange of information with them.

We have identified the following groups considered to be the most important stakeholders:

  • The employees
  • The owners: The Savings Banks and Giro Association Hesse-Thuringia, the State of Hesse, the Free State of Thuringia, the Rhenish Savings Banks and Giro Association, the Savings Banks Association Westphalia-Lippe, the German Savings Banks and Giro Association and regional savings banks associations
  • Customers: Key accounts, Sparkassen and their customers, institutional investors and real estate customers, end consumers and SME cus-tomers (Frankfurter Sparkasse, LBS), the public sector (especially German federal states, local authorities and public-sector entities), tenants (GWH), municipalities and public-sector entities of German federal states
  • Subsidiaries
  • The media, journalists and the general public
  • Banks and co-operation partners
  • Rating agencies
  • Regional and national associations, initiatives and organisations

Management

The bank’s Board of Managing Directors conducts the bank’s business activities according to laws, the corporate governance statutes and specifications contained within the Rules of Procedure for the Board of Managing Directors. The members of the Board of Managing Directors are collectively responsible for the bank’s business activities. Sustainability in the sense of ecological and social responsibility is an integral component of the Helaba Group’s binding business strategy. Overall responsibility for all aspects of sustainability rests with the Board of Managing Directors. To this end, it is supported by the Sustainability Steering Committee and the Sustainability Officer.

Control

In the 2017 reporting year, the annual sustainability reporting was refined. In order to do this, Helaba is collecting data and information on a group-wide level and evaluating it. We use the requirements of the German Sustainability Code (DNK), and indicators it uses provided by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), as a framework for our reporting.

Environ­mental data

Since 2012, Helaba has been publishing environmental data about its own operational business. In 2017, we established a systematic, group-wide data collection structure for environmental data that covers 95 percent of our locations. In this way, we will be able to measure and manage the impact of our business on the environment and the climate more effectively.

In 2016, Frankfurter Sparkasse launched a reorganisation of its existing environmental management system. Despite temporarily suspending Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) certification, it adheres to the environmental standards it had previously achieved. Relevant processes have been put in place and will continue to be applied regardless of a voluntary certification. Therefore, in case of possible re-certification, the bank will be able to ensure almost seamless continuity from existing standards (EMAS, ISO 14001). 

Employee data and staff survey

Since 2017 we collect employee data on a group-wide level. Employee data is an established component of our Group reporting and is being continually enhanced.

In 2016, we conducted a bank-wide survey among our staff, in which around 83 percent of all employees participated. At the same time, Frankfurter Sparkasse also carried out its own staff survey. The results of both surveys provide an overview of the status of our corporate and management cultures. The results formed the basis for deriving strategic and operational recommendations for action in the entire company. In 2018, Frankfurter Sparkasse conducted a follow-up survery to monitor the status of implementation.

We will regularly conduct staff surveys to gather insights and interests of our employees.

Customer surveys and satisfaction analyses

Helaba regularly compiles reports on the status of our co-operation with Sparkassen – so-called S-Group reporting. The rate of uptake of S-Group products and services forms the basis of this reporting. By providing this level of transparency on the type and uptake of our services, we are able to identify the need for action at an early stage and improve our range of products and services.

We receive direct feedback by conducting regularly customer surveys in the branches and advisory centres of Frankfurter Sparkasse. These surveys act as key indicators as to whether our service and advisory standards are adhered to and how we can improve the customer experience of the quality of our products and processes.

Rating assessments

Sustainability activities are also based on feedback from outside the organisation. We evaluate the annual rating assessments compiled by the sustainability rating agencies MSCI, sustainalytics, ISS-oekom and imug in order to derive any required action. 

Steer­ing Com­mit­tee

The Sustainability Officer chairs the steering committee. Each relevant division or group business unit sends one representative to the Steering Committee.

Among other things, the duties of the Steering Committee include discussing developments related to sustainability and their impact on Helaba, agreeing on and updating group-wide specifications as well as initiating and coordinating any measures to be taken.

The Steering Committee meets on a semi-annual basis.

Im­ple­ment­ation

The group’s business units ensure the organisational implementation of Helaba’s sustainability principles. The group’s business units implement requirements laid out in the business strategy or implement their own appropriate requirements.

Furthermore, the following responsibilities have been defined at Helaba:

  • Helaba’s Sustainability Officer is attached to the organisational unit of Central Staff & Group Strategy in the area of responsibility of the Chairman of the Board of Managing Directors and represents Helaba in all issues of sustainability, both inside and outside the bank. The Sustainability Officer organises regular meetings of the Steering Committee and coordinates the implementation of sustainability measures as well as internal and external communication, e.g. with rating agencies. S/he supports the preparation of the non-financial declaration in the consolidated management report and reviews the sustainability principles as well as any relevant specifications in the bank’s strategy.
  • For its area of responsibility, Frankfurter Sparkasse has appointed an Environmental Management Officer who, among other things, is responsible for the environmental management system.
  • In all other group business units, responsibility for adherence to sustainability principles rests with the respective management.

Regulatory

We consistently push for adherence to rules and regulations on a local, national and international level. In case legal rules contradict each other or if stricter or more comprehensive rules apply in day-to-day business, in general the stricter rules must be applied.

Violations of the law may damage the company, our employees as well as our customers and jeopardise the bank’s reputation. Our risk-based compli-ance management system, which is focused on prevention, ensures that – where possible - any violations are avoided from the outset.

Compliance

The materiality analysis showed that the issue of compliance is of the utmost importance to our stakeholders. In order to comply with rules and regula-tions in the course of conducting our business activities, we have established independent compliance offices. You can find detailed information about these offices and about their areas of activity in Helaba’s annual report and disclosure report (disclosure of Helaba Group pursuant to Capital Require-ment Regulation (CRR)).

The internal audit and compliance offices are directly attached to the Board of Managing Directors as independent functions. In this way, we manage and monitor compliance risks effectively and comply with statutory requirements.

Combatting corruption

All forms of illegal activity are unacceptable for Helaba and its employees. In terms of our business activities, we pay particularly close attention to pre-venting white-collar crime, e.g. fraud, corruption or bribery. Binding rules governing the investigation of suspicious circumstances are enshrined in op-erating procedures. Should any suspicious circumstances be substantiated, we will take legal action.

As a member of the UN Global Compact, we reject all forms of corruption, including extortion and bribery. All forms of bribery and corruption are pro-hibited at Helaba. This is documented and detailed in our binding Code of Conduct.

In order to ensure that our employees make business decisions in an objective and transparent way based on plausible factual arguments, we have established guidelines on the exchange of gifts. They provide support and standardises approval obligations that guarantee a transparent handling of gifts.

Tax compliance

Helaba’s tax compliance management is designed to monitor tax-relevant business processes in an effective and risk-oriented manner. In this area we are developing suitable measures that guarantee adherence to our tax obligations.
Artificial tax structures and the avoidance of arm’s length principles are ruled out. We do not engage in the provision of purely tax-induced structures in relation to products or in our customer business.

Interest-­driven policies

Helaba is a member of the German Savings Banks and Giro Association (DSGV), the umbrella association of the Sparkasse-Finanzgruppe. DSGV represents the interests of the Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe and organises decision-making within the group. Furthermore, it determines the strategic direction of the Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe.

In addition, Helaba is a member of the Association of German Public Banks (VÖB), which represents the interests of 63 members including Landes-banks as well as federal and state development banks.

Helaba is also a member of the Association of German Pfandbrief Banks (vdp). vdp represents the interests of Pfandbrief banks vis-à-vis national and European decision-making bodies as well as professionals in the sector.

As a member of the German Association for Environmental Management and Sustainability in Financial Institutions (VfU), Helaba is involved in a net-work of financial service providers focused on sustainability that considers itself to be an industry initiative that promotes participation in political dis-course.

Moreover, Helaba supports the Green Finance Innovation Cluster in the financial centre of Frankfurt as a platinum sponsor, which was launched by the State of Hesse in the scope of its sustainability strategy. WIBank is a founding member.

In the scope of its membership of the financial centre initiative Frankfurt Main Finance e.V., Helaba conveys its close association with the financial cen-tre and its desire to strengthen Frankfurt am Main as a national and international financial hub. In our financial centre study “Brexit – Let’s go Frankfurt” we advocate a strengthening of the financial centre in the context of Brexit negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom. In addi-tion, Helaba is systematically establishing relationships to FinTechs, e.g. through its platinum partnership at the Frankfurt “TechQuartier” hub, thereby promoting innovative products and ideas in Frankfurt together with WIBank as a founding member.

Preventing political interference

Helaba does not make any donations to political parties or party-affiliated organisations. We always donate money or benefits (donation/sponsoring) in line with applicable laws and internal charitable funding guidelines.

Due to Helaba’s particular ownership structure (8.1 % State of Hesse, 4.05 % Free State of Thuringia), functionaries from the political sphere, among others, have also been appointed to the bank’s Supervisory Board and Board of Owners in line with the bank’s Articles of Association. The associated close relationship between the bank’s activities and politics has a generally positive impact on our conservative risk profile. It ensures that we are strongly embedded in our core business region and intertwines our banking activities even more strongly with the real economy. There is no political interference in our banking operations.

Re­muner­ation and incen­tivi­sation system

Helaba promotes the successful implementation of its business and risk strategies with fair and effective remuneration structures, in which sustainability plays an important role. In this way, we want to continue to position ourselves as an attractive employer in the future.

Our remuneration is based on an employee’s required tasks and performance. We do not incentivise our staff to take disproportionately high risks. Among other things, we have ensured this by putting in place an appropriate remuneration structure whose emphasis is on a fixed salary. Variable re-muneration components mainly take into account risk-relevant performance indicators.

In addition to fixed and variable salary components, Helaba provides its employees with social benefits including, among other things, an occupational pension scheme and a private retirement plan to which employees can contribute by way of deferred compensation.

According to provisions of the Remuneration Ordinance for Institutions, Helaba publishes comprehensive information about its remuneration systems and structures in a remuneration Report (German only).

Renumeration Report

Standards

Compliance with statutory requirements and ethical standards and acting in a responsible manner form the basis of our business activities. This is underscored by our membership of the UN Global Compact.

Code of con­duct for sup­pliers

Helaba does not work together with companies and institutions that are known to violate fundamental human rights or damage the environment. We take a risk-based approach in the scope of outsourcing activities and processes. Helaba only outsources to providers that pursue a demonstrably sus-tainable business policy on the basis of binding codes of conduct and voluntary commitments.

In 2017 we developed a binding code of conduct for suppliers (non-IT). All existing and new suppliers must register in a procurement portal. Companies that do not consent to the code cannot become suppliers of the bank.

In this code of conduct we stipulate minimum standards in the areas of societal, ecological, social and ethical responsibility. We oblige suppliers and service providers to comply with e.g. applicable national requirements and international environmental standards: packaging used must be recyclable. As far as possible, goods must be transported in an environmentally-friendly way. As a rule, we prioritise working together with suppliers that maintain an environmental management system in line with accepted industry standards and that use renewable energy in their value-added processes. In addition, we expect contractors to enforce a similar code of conduct among their own suppliers.

Helaba has defined criteria for the issues of sustainability, security and values in respect of procurement processes for IT services in a supplier man-agement handbook, which are used in assessing suppliers.

 Human rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the core labour standards of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) (freedom of association and right to collective bargaining, prohibition of forced labour, elimination of exploitative forms of child labour, non-discrimination in employment) apply to us on both a national and international level as overriding principles governing our activities. We have defined these principles to apply to all of Helaba’s activities in our Code of Conduct.

As a financial service provider with business activities in the United Kingdom, Helaba is additionally obliged to issue a declaration pursuant to section 54 of the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015. We have published a relevant declaration by the Board of Managing Directors for the 2016 financial year on the English version of our website.

Modern Slavery Act

 UN Global Compact

We have been a member of the UN Global Compact and a signatory to its ten principles since 2017. In this way, we expressly underline our commit-ment to internationally recognised standards on human and labour rights, protecting the environment and preventing corruption. We report on measures we have implemented in the scope of an annual progress report.

The ten principles of the UN Global Compact:

  1. Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally  proclaimed human rights; and
  2. make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.
  3. Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;
  4. the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour;
  5. the effective abolition of child labour; and
  6. the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
  7. Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges;
  8. undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility; and
  9. encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.
  10. Businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.

Code of Conduct

In respect of our business activities, it is important that we comply with and implement statutory requirements and ethical standards. Helaba’s Code of Conduct defines responsible conduct within the bank as well as in relation to employees, customers, business partners, market participants, share-holders, public-sector institutions and the general public. In this way, we have created a binding framework for responsible conduct that enables every individual to fulfil statutory requirements and the expectations of society.

Among other things, the Code of Conduct contains minimum standards governing the topic areas of conflicts of interest, insider information and em-ployee transactions, white-collar crime, anti-money laundering and financial sanctions, data protection, information security and transparency, prevent-ing corruption and bribery, fair competition and tax compliance, acting responsibly and responsibility for employees. All requirements of the Code of Conduct have been regulated in binding internal operating procedures and implemented in line with the respective statutory requirements.

Every member of staff is obliged to act in line with these principles. The Board of Managing Directors and managerial staff are responsi-ble for ensuring that the provisions are observed in their areas of responsibility. We conduct regular reviews of this in the scope of audits and with the help of our compliance offices. The whistleblower system helps us to identify and deal with irregularities if they are recognised and reported by employees.

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Ratings & reports

In order to review and continuously improve our sustainability profile, among other things we utilise the sustainability ratings of various agencies. Furthermore, we collect internal indicators from the areas of business, the environment and social affairs and, in this way, document our progress. We report on this in our management report, on our website and in our declaration of compliance with the German Sustainability Code (DNK).

Data

We document and review our progress in the area of sustainability on a regular basis by continuously collecting and evaluating any sustainability-related data. Among other things, we collect data on consumption and emissions, but also data resulting from staff surveys or customer satisfaction surveys. Initially, this data is published internally in order to inform those involved and to manage the appropriate measures to be taken. This data also serves as a basis for our external reporting.

Ratings

Specialist agencies such as MSCI, sustainalytics, ISS-oekom or imug regularly review companies on their performance in the field of sustainability. In close co-operation with these rating agencies, we are working on continuous improvements to our sustainability assessments.

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Reporting

With the adoption of the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Directive Implementation Act, since 2017 Helaba has been obliged to report on signifi-cant non-financial aspects of its activities. We honour this reporting obligation in the scope of a non-financial declaration as part of the management report which is certified by an external auditor.

Helaba reports regularly on its sustainability activities in its management report and on its website. Since 2017, we are also publishing an annual declaration of compliance with the German Sustainability Code (DNK).

Furthermore, as a member of the UN Global Compact, we publish an annual progress report. In this way, we not only provide our stakeholders with the most important information about our sustainability activities but also comply with the statutory requirements of the CSR Directive Implementation Act, which came into force this year.

DNK - The Sustainability Code

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