Comprehensive sustainability strategy
BoP corporate social responsibility
- Commitment to social and environmental standards:
Considering that we are one of the largest financial institutions in Palestine, protecting the environment and demonstrating respect for human rights form an essential part of behaving responsibly. To achieve this, we incorporated social and environmental risk management systems in all our business functions and activities. We also designed and developed policies, which ensure that bank operations do not damage the environment or cause social harm.
In 2008, the Bank of Palestine adopted the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) social and environmental policies, which are applied when granting credit facilitations at any of Bank of Palestine’s branches and sub-branches. These policies provide the bank with a framework for determining whether a client adheres to our sustainability strategy. All of the bank’s credit officers use a standard checklist to confirm that loan applicants and the projects that require financing meet the requirements of these policies.
In 2011, the Bank of Palestine joined other entities in signing the United Nations Global Compact, ensuring its commitment to the treaty’s policies and strategies and the 10 Principles related to human rights, labor, the environment, and combatting corruption. As a result, the bank’s activities became globally oriented seeking to expand markets, develop trade, and provide financing that benefits the economy and society.
- Meeting environmental needs
We focus on offering relevant products and services to our customers. Similar to our commitment to social and economic development through support for micro and small businesses, we are equally committed to bringing about social and environmental improvements through the Green Loans program. As its name suggests, these are loans granted to individuals, families, and MSMEs for projects that lead to greater water or energy efficiency, wastewater treatment, and the production of renewable energy, particularly in rural Palestine. The Middle East is one of the most water-stressed regions in the world. The World Health Organization recommends that each person have 100 liters of water a day available. In Palestine, water availability is 60 liters per person, per day. Hence, our green loan program is very important to the overall health of our region. Education is an integral part of this program so that people - particularly farmers - are aware of the program and the benefits it can bring. To this end, the Bank of Palestine conducts workshops throughout rural Palestine to explain the benefits of energy and water efficiency.
- Educating our employees about sustainability
We try to ensure that our operations are as much sustainable as possible through the way our buildings are constructed and operated, through the types of products and services we offer, and in the way we work, to ensure that more and more people in Palestine have access to the financing they need to be able to contribute meaningfully to the health and prosperity of the economy and the developmental process in Palestine.
- Risk management and corporate governance
Bank of Palestine strives to position itself as an international financial institution and to meet international best practices. For this reason, we have worked in cooperation with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) - a member of the World Bank Group - to develop an internationally acceptable risk management structure, systems, procedures, and processes, as well as to strengthen our corporate governance and risk management practices.
Our aim is to promote sustainable economic growth, through our core business of banking
Access to Finance
- Delivering banking service to all areas
Several Palestinian towns and villages are under-served by financial institutions and others are completely unbanked, restricting their economic activity. Widening Access to finance is a core part of our strategy. Bank of Palestine is committed to expanding its branch, sub-branch, ATM, and POS merchant network, not only in the main cities and towns but in rural areas as well, where the populations have little access to banks and banking services.
As a service to students, we have also opened sub-branches in Palestinian universities to help meet their banking needs and to be able to expand their knowledge of the banking services we provide.
- Building a sustainable base for MSMEs to grow
We continue to support micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), which are key drivers of growth and employment across our markets. This year, we increased our MSME lending substantially. Our approach to Micro and SME businesses is multi-tier, ensuring that we cover these segments properly, as they represent 90% of the Palestinian Private sector, and employ 87% of the private-sector labor force.
Through our specialized microfinance division, we strive to help small businesses that do not normally have access to funding. By providing financial support to these businesses, the Bank of Palestine is helping to improve the strength and stability of communities, thereby reducing poverty, raising living standards, and creating more job opportunities. In addition to lending directly to micro businesses, the Bank of Palestine has also provided several Microfinance Institutions in Palestine with credit facilities.
Similarly, and in order to provide financial support to a higher number of SMEs, in addition to the bank’s lending programs to this segment, Bank of Palestine also invested in Private Equity funds, such as Riyada Enterprise Development (RED), a USD 650 million SME investment platform of the Abraaj group.
- Building the pillars of a sustainable economy
Bank of Palestine has been playing a leading role in major initiatives in Palestine, whereby it mobilized the private sector to launch the first pension fund for the nongovernmental sector and provided support for the necessary legal reforms. Being the first of its kind in the region, the fund is replicated from the Chilean model and is expected to contribute tremendously to supporting the Palestinian society and economy by enabling beneficiaries.
to obtain the necessary funding for their medium-sized and long term projects, developing Palestinian financial markets, promoting investments, providing employment opportunities, alleviating poverty, and providing stability and reassurance to citizens, especially the elderly.
- Combatting Financial Crimes
We perform risk-based due diligence on all new customers, including verification of their identity and, where appropriate, an assessment of the source of their wealth and funds. We use sophisticated software systems for questionable behavior associated with AML. We comply with all suspicious activity reporting required of us by our compliance program, regulators, and law enforcement agencies in Palestine. We provide training for our employees on our customer due diligence policies and procedures, including how to detect and report suspicious activity.
Since 60% of Palestinians are under the age of 25, the Bank of Palestine has been focusing on youth by developing products and services that respond to their various needs. With the increase of unemployment (35%) among Palestinian youth and university graduates (50%), Bank of Palestine has been constantly working on promoting youth creativity and innovation, as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility program, and developing special loan programs for innovative youth who have exceptional initiative and economic project plans.
The average age of employees working at the Bank of Palestine is 28 years, which reflects the bank’s belief in the role of youth and confidence in their ideas and innovations, which will, in turn, contribute to the bank’s development and growth. The bank also made sure to grant employees in their 30’s and 40’s roles and positions in higher management.
Global Entrepreneurship Week
Bank of Palestine sponsored the Global Entrepreneurship Week in Palestine, which involved the participation of nearly 50 partners, included 36 activities, and was attended by 2,500 participants from project owners and ambitious entrepreneurs. This event is considered the largest celebration of innovators and entrepreneurs who launch initiatives that transform creative ideas into reality and push the economic wheel forward. The Global Entrepreneurship Week is organized during November of every year, and during 2013, it featured thousands of activities and competitions that were held around the world to inspire financiers and involve them in entrepreneurial activities. During the last five years, the Global Entrepreneurship Week was held in 140 countries, gathered 25 million participants, and over 115,000 activities.