Sustainability has high priority

What do participants of e-learning courses do with their gained knowledge? We asked David Harleman from Fortis Bank Nederland whether his participation in our course “Enrivonmental and Social Risk Management” had helped him in his daily work. He said, he had learned how to assess risks of transactions in a more systematic way.

What motivated you to participate in the course?

David Harleman: One of my activities is to work on the integration of social and environmental issues in our risk management processes, as well as work on policy development on sustainability topics. That is why this course was interesting for me, because it offered exactly that.

Did the course meet your expectations?

David Harleman: Yes, one of my aims was to look in a more systematic way on how to deal with environmental and social risks in a financial institution. I think that in our organisation we have already been working to a system to address those risks or issues. But sometimes it was a bit ad hoc, so when a topic came up, we started to look at it and analyse it case-by-case. We have a team of experts with a lot of knowledge about sustainability but there was not a really structured way to deal with these risks. That was what I was hoping to get some insights on in the course. This met my expectations.

Have you been able to use your newly gained knowledge from the course?

David Harleman: I can say that now I am able to use this knowledge for my benefit. Before this course, when I had to give an opinion on a certain deal, I looked at the deal as such and I used my available knowledge, I did not use a fixed structure. After the course I have been using elements from it to assess transactions on environmental and social risks.

What role does sustainability play in your institution?

David Harleman: The financial crisis in 2008 had a lot of impact on our company; there had been many changes in our structure. Still, I think we developed ambitious initiatives to deal with environmental and social risks, and despite what happened, this is still important. Our activities have not been subordinated to other priorities, and this is encouraging for us.

Have you learned something from the other participants in the course?

David Harleman: It was a very interesting group of participants with a huge variety of backgrounds, there were people from all over the world. It was especially interesting to get to know different kinds of experience from people in developing countries. In a financial institution in the West you deal a lot with aspects that affect people in developing countries – more than ourselves. Normally, you are not in touch with banks and financial institutions in developing countries. Because of the different time zones discussions had not always been on a high level – so it would have been very interesting to atually meet the people, but I understand this is complicated and expensive to organise.

David Harleman has a Master in International Business and International Relations. He is Manager Corporate Social Responsibility at Fortis Bank Nederland. Fortis Bank Nederland became independent in October 2008 after nationalisation of the former Fortis Group´s Dutch part. Mr. Harleman participated in the course “Enrivonmental and Social Risk Management” in spring 2009.