UBS Invests in Sustainability for Financial and Societal Return

May 3, 2016 8:15 AM ET

Banking came into its own in the first industrial revolution. Banks were the intermediaries between the people with money and the ideas and opportunities of the community they served.

Now, says UBS’s Global Head of UBS and Society, Caroline Anstey, it is time to remember this. “Towards the end of the Twentieth Century, finance became in many ways a sector in its own right, often divorced from the real economy and eventually helping to prompt the financial crises of recent years. This has lead to a lot of soul searching.”

Banks, she believes, have not just the means, but also often the skills and the responsibility to help lead a debate on the challenges facing today’s society, especially when those challenges require a financing solution. This is often the case in areas where financial innovation is needed to spur investment, for example in vaccines in emerging markets, or green infrastructure, or sustainable energy for all. “These are challenges where banking can play a lead role.” says Anstey. As a former Managing Director at the World Bank, her background is in development and she is passionate about it. “Banks need a societal, as well as a legal, licence to operate,” she says.

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