Profitability and sustainability are closely related

Åsne Ådland-Dale in a kayak
By Ove Sjøstrøm

15 August 2022 14:46

Profitability and sustainability are closely related

Åsne Ådland-Dale is an industrial designer who has ended up as Head of Sustainability in Sparebanken Vest.

‘Sustainability is a key factor in our corporate customers’ profitability over time. Profitability and sustainability are closely related. That also applies to my workplace,’ says Åsne Ådland-Dale, Head of Sustainability in Sparebanken Vest.

‘How do you work on sustainability within the company?’

‘We use our climate accounts as a means of establishing what we need to focus on. We map our activities in these accounts, for example work trips, car use or what services we procure for the bank. We have collected more and more data about our indirect emissions latterly, which, for us as a bank, come from our lending book,’ she says and elaborates:

‘This is where we find 99 per cent of the bank’s emissions, and our biggest opportunity and challenge is to ensure that the money we lend ends up in projects and with customers who have long-term sustainable plans for their activities.’

New requirements

Sparebanken Vest is also noticing new requirements of sustainable operations.

‘Those who work on raising the capital that we lend to customers are often asked how we go about addressing this. Do we have a plan? What do we do specifically? We can’t borrow money if we don’t take sustainability seriously,’ she says, adding:

‘There’s also a regulatory aspect to this that has become more concrete in recent years. Among other things, the EU makes requirements of sustainability in business through the taxonomy. Not taking this seriously by drawing up plans and measures means running a risk of not securing funding for new projects or having no choice but to take out more expensive loans.’

‘A natural part’

In May, she and the rest of Sparebanken Vest’s management group headed for the mountains.

‘Camp Finse is a strategy workshop for the bank. We made a plan for important decisions and staked out the direction for the next few years. Sustainability is one of three areas that we're going to focus on,’ she says, adding:

‘Sustainability should be a natural part of every company’s strategy plans going forward. For Sparebanken Vest, this means being vigilant about one of our biggest business risks. We are now really starting to notice the impact of climate change, and we all have a responsibility in that context.’

She continues:

‘The savings bank model is based on working to ensure that local communities develop in a sustainable manner. That means we make requirements of ourselves, the projects we fund and take responsibility, locally and globally, for everything we do.’

Took further education at NHH

Ådland-Dale studied industrial design. She has also taken two further education programmes at NHH Executive, Design Thinking in 2015 and Sustainable Business Strategy, which she completed this year.

‘I studied concept development and strategy as part of my industrial design education. Taking further education in Design Thinking gave me new tools that have enabled me to focus attention on the customer perspective and user focus. This perspective is vital to developing user-friendly digital services for our customers. Sustainable Business Strategy is about identifying challenges and opportunities for existing and new business models that will create, capture and deliver value in future.’

Ådland-Dale sees a clear link between her career and education. When she started working in the bank five years ago, sustainability only made up a small part of her job.

‘Sustainable finance has gone from being a small part of what I did to becoming what I and a few others in the bank do full-time. The further education I have taken has been perfectly aligned with my career development,' she says, elaborating:

‘I’m interested in finding smarter ways of doing things. More than anything, I’m inspired by what hasn’t been solved, and by finding a way forward in areas where no one has worked before. The question is how we can do so in a smart and profitable manner that benefits the planet.’

‘Do you have any tips for businesses that want to focus more on sustainability?’

‘Many businesses have a sustainability strategy, but the most important thing is to have a strategy that is sustainable. I like the Swedish word for sustainability, holdbarhet (which means durability in Norwegian). It’s about thinking in the long term and not setting expiry dates.’

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