Steve James

1 April 2014 – Through a triple-bottom line approach to carbon neutrality and member-focused business practices, Teachers Mutual Bank has out-ranked many larger organisations in being named in the Ethisphere Institute’s 2014 World’s Most Ethical Companies ranking. The only other Australian companies to make the list were the National Australia Bank and Westpac.

In addition to being a carbon neutral financial institution, TMB was recognised for achievements across five sustainability priority areas: business practices, the education sector, its members, its employees, and the environment.

“We’re honoured to be recognised at an international level by the Ethisphere Institute, and are proud to be punching above our weight alongside the biggest in the industry when it comes to ethical business practices and sustainability,” TMB’s chief executive officer Steve James, said.

“For us, it’s not a bolt-on, it’s at the very heart of our strategy. The award is testament to our long-term commitment to responsible corporate citizenship and reinforces our position as an industry leader in sustainable business operations.”

The bank’s sustainability and social responsibility strategies have seen it recognised with a number of accolades, including in 2013, reaching Gold status (90 per cent) in the annual Corporate Responsibility (CR) Index published by London’s Financial Times; winning ‘Best Bank in Socially Responsible Performance category’ in the Asia-Pacific Banking and Finance Awards; and being recognised by the London Benchmarking Group as a global leader in community investment for two years running.

TMB’s community investment of 4.1 per cent of pre-tax profits is seven times higher than London Benchmarking Group’s (LBG) average for Australia and New Zealand in 2013, 12 times the finance services sector average and 2.4 times the Global LBG average.

Originally established as Teachers Credit Union in 1966, in 2012 the organisation transitioned to a mutual bank and now has over $4 billion in assets and 159,000 members.

Paying it forward with carbon offsets

In July of 2012, the organisation achieved carbon neutrality, with initiatives including reduction in electricity use by 30 per cent between 2011 and 2013, and the purchase of carbon credits two years in advance against projected emissions, making the institution carbon neutral in current time, not retrospectively. TMB also has a policy of not using member funds to finance large-scale greenhouse gas pollution.

TMB has invested in three carbon offset projects with high social benefit values in the Asia Pacific region – the Antai Waste Gas recovery project in China, the Rural China Grouped Small Hydro project also in China, and the Tamil Nadu 45 turbine wind project in India.

The bank undertook a Greenhouse Gas Emissions inventory in 2013, which showed the bank’s GHG emissions to be 2,295 tonnes – the equivalent of 205 households – comprising 1759 tonnes of emissions from electricity and 536 tonnes from bank vehicles.

Spreading the benefits to members and their students

TMB assists its professional teacher members to build sustainability knowledge in the next generation, with the Teachers Environment Fund. The fund provides grants of up to $2000 to schools and TAFE colleges in New South Wales, Western Australia, the ACT and Northern Territory to assist with environmental projects.

Since the fund launched in 2008, it has distributed a total of $312,000 to over 100 schools and TAFEs. The 25 projects funded in 2013 involved 19,000 students and 1,458 teachers working on projects ranging from sustainable gardens and worm farms through to native tree planting and indigenous creek initiatives.

Applications for grants close Friday April 11 2014, and information on how to apply is available here.