To ensure we continue to support all our stakeholders we have established a number of channels to gather their feedback and assess emerging trends. This process helps us to better understand stakeholder needs and identify the current and emerging issues that matter most to the people connected to our business. In turn, we are able to direct our efforts and resources to these most pressing emerging risks and opportunities. We have categorised our material issues into the following six themes.
The financial services industry is going through a period of rapid change. Customer needs are evolving (shaped by new technologies), regulation and compliance have increased, and competition is becoming more intense. Our strategy puts service at the heart of everything we do, helping customers achieve their financial goals, at every stage of their life.
Banks play an important role in the financial system and in the personal lives of customers. Because of this trust is vital. It is up to all the banks, collectively and individually, to restore public trust and confidence. This year we have stepped up our efforts to rebuild our standing and put it right for customers.
We are living in a 24/7 digital world. New businesses are emerging and customer expectations are changing. We are embracing the digital opportunity, investing in our mobile and online platforms, our technology infrastructure and our cybersecurity capabilities. At the same time we are fostering innovation by changing the way we work, building partnerships with innovative businesses and directly investing in new fintech opportunities that have the potential to change the financial services landscape.
Children born today are expected to live beyond their 100th year. During this longer lifetime, the nature of work and education is likely to change multiple times. In preparing for these developments we are building a more diverse and highly skilled workforce—with an even stronger service culture—to help us respond to the changing future of work.
As one of Australia’s largest companies we can play an active role in creating positive social, economic and environmental impacts. Our aim is to foster a fairer and more inclusive future for all. Today our actions span across community giving, grants and scholarships, mentoring and education, along with providing banking services (including investment and lending) to sustainable solutions and communities.
The size and scale of our business means we have the ability to influence sustainable and ethical practices through our supply chain and the supply chains of our customers and suppliers. This year we have updated and published position statements and action plans on climate change and human rights, and released our Responsible Sourcing Code of Conduct.
In 2013 we set our five-year sustainability strategy which centres around three priority areas:
2017 marks the final year of that strategy and we have made strong progress, meeting or exceeding 80% of the measures. Highlights of performance follow, with full details, including performance metrics, in our 2017 Sustainability Performance Report.
Our 2018–20 sustainability strategy will be announced in November 2017 and will be available online at www.westpac.com.au/sustainability.
This year we achieved our goal of 50% women in leadership roles by 20171, and exceeded our target of increasing the number of women in general management positions to 41%.
This year we offered Australian students free access to maths education through Mathspace, a maths app to help students boost their maths skills. We also launched The Business Institute to help our business bankers continue to develop their skills and expertise. This year we announced our 200th Westpac Scholar through Westpac Bicentennial Foundation. This represents, since 2015, a $12.6 million investment (including contributions from university partners), in individuals who are solving some of Australia’s biggest problems.
We published our updated Human Rights Position Statement and 2020 Action Plan. With an estimated 45 million people around the world subject to modern slavery, we believe businesses have a responsibility to take action where they can, including through their supply chains.
To help international students prepare for their move to study in Australia, we shared tips on managing finances on Chinese social media channels, and hosted an educational event for over 200 migration agents with advice and tools to help their clients.
In 2016 we reached our target of employing 4% of our staff who self identify as Indigenous Australian. In 2017 we maintained this ratio and exceeded our 2015-17 Reconciliation Action Plan commitment of recruiting 500 Indigenous employees by 2017.
To coincide with The International Day of People with Disability, we launched our new 2017–20 Accessibility Action Plan. This plan updates our accessibility and inclusion commitments for customers, employees and communities. This year St.George Bank became the first Australian bank to be accredited as dementia-friendly by Dementia Australia.
This year we exceeded our cumulative target of $3 million supply chain spend with Indigenous owned businesses by 2017, and we have increased our target to $10 million by 2020.
Following extensive stakeholder engagement and the scenario planning analysis conducted in 2016, we announced our third Climate Change Position Statement and 2020 Action Plan. The plan is consistent with the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). It outlines our commitment to helping limit global warming to less than two degrees, including:
We issued our first offshore foreign currency Climate Bond for US$50 million, a first among Australian banks, and published our first Westpac Climate Bond Impact Report.
Our committed exposure to CleanTech and environmental solutions such as renewable energy, green buildings, forestry, energy efficiency and green business initiatives, increased to $7 billion, 16% ahead of our 2017 target.
This year we were selected as the preferred financial partner for the Tasmanian Energy Efficiency Loans Scheme, funding $8.7 million in energy efficient solutions. We also introduced sustainability scoring to BT Panorama allowing customers and advisers to review how their investments on the ASX200 and over 200 managed funds rate on environmental, social and governance factors.
We achieved our 75% waste to recycling target in Sydney head offices following improvements in waste sorting, site audits and increased screening. At the same time we achieved a 6% improvement in electricity efficiency across our commercial and retail sites, exceeding our 2017 target. We also maintained our carbon neutral status for the fourth year in a row.
Almost two thirds of lending to electricity generation in Australia and New Zealand was to renewable energy generation sources.
This year we released our first Financial Inclusion Action Plan laying out our vision and guiding priorities for the next 12 months around the areas of crisis and hardship, understanding money and inclusive growth.
To meet the changing needs of customers, this year we introduced a number of new products and services. This included savings products with our Westpac Life and Westpac Bump accounts, and a new basic credit card, Westpac Lite, with an interest rate of 9.9%. To help customers following a loss, we introduced new bereavement support resources on our websites as well as bereavement customer guide booklets.
This year we increased our lending and investment in the social and affordable housing sector to $1.32 billion, up from $1.05 billion a year ago, although this is short of our $2 billion target. There are changes underway, however the pace of policy change has been slower than anticipated and finding scaleable solutions remains challenging. This will be a key area of focus in the next phase of our sustainability strategy.
In a joint venture with the Pacific Financial Inclusion Program, we launched Choice Wantok, an initiative to create new ways of offering banking services to people in remote areas of PNG.
In 2017 our specialist teams helped over 28,000 customers experiencing financial hardship and we were the first bank in Australia to offer the option of negotiating payment arrangements through online banking. To assist customers impacted by the mining downturn in Western Australia, we have set up a dedicated team of case management specialists.
Delivered financial literacy training to 112,263 people through face-to-face workshops and online sessions.
This year we made available close to $475,000 in microfinance loans with Many Rivers Microfinance to support Indigenous business owners, and committed to supporting at least 110 small Indigenous businesses a year to 2019. Our Indigenous Business Banking team conducted more than 33 community visits to assist customers build their financial knowledge and skills.
This year we announced our 200 Businesses of Tomorrow, recognising businesses that are contributing to Australia’s future as it transitions to a knowledge economy. 20 high-potential businesses also received a $100,000 professional services package and study tour to the USA and China.