THE RICHARD PRATT BANKSIA CEO AWARD
Damien Walsh, Managing Director – bankmecu, VIC
Damien Walsh has had a 20-year career in the cooperative banking sector gaining in-depth knowledge and experience about how the business of banking can have positive social, economic and environmental benefits and how it can contribute to sustainability thought leadership.
Damien’s motivation to continue to lead the bank’s sustainability agenda is borne out of a belief that the bank has a primary responsibility to deliver value to its customers who also own the bank, while at the same time meeting their expectations that the bank will contribute to a fairer, more equitable and sustainable world.
Starting in 2003 when mecu Limited embarked on its sustainability journey, Damien has built a broad and deep understanding about the power of banking to bring about a more sustainable world. He has led bankmecu’s involvement in range of international programs where the company has been a trailblazer for small to medium business, embedding sustainability into its core business while continuing to achieve strong profit and financial results. Testament to this leadership in the early days of this journey was Damien’s invitation in 2005 to present to the Global Roundtable of the United Nations Environment Program – Finance Initiative in New York about the credit union’s advances in sustainability reporting.
As Managing Director and previously as General Manager Corporate Services, Damien has overseen the reorientation of mecu Limited to a leading and recognised thought leader in values based and sustainable banking.
Damien has led the engagement of staff to embed sustainability principles into all aspects of the business from product design and procurement through to business operations, reporting, branding and organisational culture. The approach has been dual – to ensure the business minimises its own footprint while also encouraging customers, suppliers and stakeholders to adopt more sustainable practices.
As an example the bank was first to market with a range of GoGreen loans (home, personal and car) that provided incentives for customers to make more sustainable choices such as the energy efficiency of their new homes or emissions of their new motor vehicles. In 2005, mecu won the Gold Banksia Award for the development of its GoGreen Car Loan.
Under Damien’s leadership the bank has been developing a world-first solution for a financial institution to the question of carbon neutrality through its Conservation Landbank. Since 2008, bankmecu has purchased 927 hectares of land spread across five properties situated in Victoria’s west Wimmera region. This land has been set aside to help protect remnant natural forest and restore degraded farmland.
The Landbank allows the bank to offset the biodiversity loss associated with the construction of new homes financed and the greenhouse gas emissions from cars under finance. It also contributes to bankmecu’s carbon neutral status. The bank’s operations became fully carbon neutral in 2011 and will remain so.
Damien’s advocacy and leadership in sustainability has extended beyond the bank to the customer owned banking sector in Australia as well as more broadly to the corporate sector. This is particularly evident in the area of Integrated Reporting where bankmecu has been able to have a level of influence and impact well above its relative size and market share.
bankmecu was one of three Australian companies involved in an international pilot project run by the International Integrated Reporting Council to develop and test an IR framework. The other companies were large corporations, NAB and Stockland. Damien committed the bank to the project because it gave bankmecu an opportunity to represent the views of cooperative enterprise and bring the bank’s expertise to this international forum.
As the only Australian member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values and recognised leader in Integrating Reporting, bankmecu is an active contributor to the global conversation about the role of private finance in solving the world’s intractable social and environmental problems.
In 2014 bankmecu renewed its Strategic Plan with a strong focus on growth and continued leadership in sustainable development. Damien, along with the Board of the bank have committed to increasing the scale of the bank in order to allow it to not only provide banking to a larger number of Australians but to also have a greater capacity to have positive social, economic and environmental impacts.
As part of this agenda, Damien is currently pushing the bank to identify the next sustainability frontier and new partnerships that will help advance sustainable development into the future. Through these partnerships the bank is exploring innovations in the areas of renewable energy generation and social return on investment measurement as well as cooperative models for public service delivery and socially inclusive banking solutions.