Finnish financial sector publishes its cornerstones of responsible business – emphasis on sustainability

The Finnish financial sector has long adhered to good banking and insurance practice guidelines. It has now distilled these practices into a set of values shared by the entire sector: these values are called the cornerstones of responsibility. They emphasise the sector’s commitment to sustainable development and climate action.

Recently approved in Finance Finland (FFI) committees, the financial sector’s cornerstones of responsibility were written to promote and clarify the message of the good banking and insurance practices.

“The financial sector’s cornerstones of responsibility capture the spirit of the long-established good banking and insurance practices, which naturally continue to guide our operations as more specific principles”, explains FFI Director Lea Mäntyniemi.

Representatives appointed by FFI committees read carefully through the guidelines, picking out points that were especially relevant to the sector’s customer promise and ethical and responsibility principles. In addition, they included some more recent responsibility policies, such as the sector’s objectives to promote sustainable development and curb climate change.

“The cornerstones of responsibility were written to clarify the sector’s general practices and principles while also including new, pressing issues such as climate change, which also impacts the financial sector. The cornerstones of responsibility will support our members’ own more detailed responsibility policies”, says Nordea’s Aila Aho, chair of the FFI Responsibility Committee in 2019.

The banking and insurance sectors are strictly regulated and supervised. Regulation is largely aimed at customer protection. The sectors are also expected to adhere to good business practice: both have their own good practice guidelines, which are based on self-regulation.

Good banking practice guidelines have been published since 1992, good insurance practice guidelines since 1998. Increasing customers’ awareness of their own rights is one of the purposes of the guidelines. This makes clarity of the guidelines important.

“The Finnish financial sector has focused on responsibility themes for many years already, especially on climate action and the improvement of financial literacy. The cornerstones of responsibility further clarify the sector’s shared vision. It is important that we tell about our responsibility work in a clear and concrete way”, says chair of the FFI Communications Committee Pirjetta Soikkeli from Handelsbanken.

When authorities make decisions and statements that pertain to banks and insurance companies, they refer to the good practice guidelines. So does the Finnish Financial Ombudsman Bureau (FINE).

“The good banking and insurance practices have been defined through self-regulation. The guidelines are therefore not binding, but companies still follow them fairly conscientiously”, FFI’s Mäntyniemi says, pleased.

The Finnish financial sector’s cornerstones of responsibility were approved by the FFI Responsibility Committee, Communications Committee and Legal Affairs Committee. They apply to Finance Finland and all of its members.

Read the Financial Sector’s Cornerstones of Responsibility here