Helaba has always embraced its responsibilities to society and the natural environment and its commitment to acting as a force for good in these areas guides its activities in all business areas.
Corporate Values and principles
Its mission as defined in the Treaty of the Formation of a Joint Savings Banks Association Hesse-Thuringia requires it to operate in the public interest. Helaba’s Charter commits it to conducting the banking operations of local authorities and local authority associations, of the Federal States of Hesse and Thuringia, of other corporations, institutions and foundations under public law as well as of enterprises associated with them and assisting them in the realisation of their functions by means of its business operations. The Charter also tasks it with helping to facilitate public development initiatives, particularly in the fields of housing and urban development, industry and commerce, agriculture and environmental protection.
Helaba’s Corporate Values reflect its formal mandate to operate in the public interest. Its core values are customer focus, responsibility for employees, the environment and society, commitment to its home regions and a prudent risk policy and it is guided in everything it does by a corporate culture that prioritises responsibility and respect for all. Its mandate to operate in the public interest also extends to supporting educational, cultural, social, sports, environmental and academic projects and events.
Helaba’s sustainability principles acknowledge its environmental and social responsibilities, both internally and before the public at large, and lay down standards of conduct in the areas of business interests, business operations, staff and corporate social responsibility. The sustainability principles include a commitment on the part of Helaba to take an active role in confronting pressing challenges such as climate change and the increasing scarcity of important natural resources. Helaba has been a member of the German Association for Environmental Management and Sustainability in Financial Institutions (Verein für Umweltmanagement und Nachhaltigkeit in Finanzinstituten e.V. – VfU) since 2011.
Sustainability standards in the business strategy
Helaba considers ensuring that its business activities are sustainable to be the most important aspect of its socially responsible approach and the business strategy itself consequently incorporates wide-ranging sustainability standards.
Helaba’s efforts to maintain appropriate environmental and social standards include identifying relevant environmental factors and social and ethical considerations, which are then evaluated and incorporated into its risk assessment and loan approval processes. Such commitments ensure that Helaba does not finance the manufacture and trading of controversial types of weapon, for example, in particular cluster munitions, anti-personnel mines and biological and chemical weapons. Helaba also avoids speculating in or developing investment products based on agricultural commodities. Helaba’s endeavours in response to the threat posed by climate change include a clear commitment to supporting energy-efficient technologies and renewable energy; it advocates the use of environmentally friendly technologies wherever possible when financing technical plant and systems. It intends to carry on continuously adding new sustainable banking products to its proposition in future.
Environmental factors in business operations
Helaba has been offering project finance in the area of renewable energy since the 1990s. It has extensive experience with the financing of large power station projects, both in Germany and abroad, having built up a substantial portfolio in this segment. The provision of finance for measures to improve the energy efficiency of buildings makes up a large part of the business of LBS Hessen-Thüringen, which offers residential property owners inexpensive individual financing solutions for projects such as home energy efficiency improvement and the installation of solar power systems.
WIBank supports the construction of energy-efficient residential buildings and residential property modernisation measures to improve energy efficiency on behalf of the State of Hesse as part of efforts to reduce energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. It supports environmentally-friendly energy generation using renewable agricultural and forestry products and efficient energy use too, most notably local heating networks, biomass-fuelled heating systems and agricultural biogas plants. WIBank also provides subsidies for projects to restore inshore waters to a more natural state, to construct and extend flood defence schemes and to repair flood damage.
Helaba’s real estate subsidiaries similarly strive to minimise their impact on the natural environment. Major residential real estate company GWH prioritises sustainability throughout its residential property new build, renovation and operation activities and invests in improved insulation and more energy-efficient windows and heating systems for its residential real estate portfolios.
Real estate project developer and manager OFB has laid down its own environmental and sociocultural requirements for new build projects in its formal assessment for sustainable planning, construction and operation. The majority of its projects actually exceed the requirements of the German Energy Saving Ordinance (Energieeinsparverordnung – EnEV) and it intends that in future virtually all of its projects will comply with the specifications published by the German Sustainable Building Council (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Nachhaltiges Bauen – DGNB) or the U.S.Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) criteria. Many of the properties developed by OFB have already obtained corresponding accreditation.
Internal operating measures
Helaba’s response to the challenge of climate change extends to targeting significant reductions in its own energy consumption and the carbon dioxide emissions attributable to the direct energy consumption of its office sites too. The Bank calculates environmental indicators and publishes them on an annual basis in order to make key elements of its environmental profile transparent and create incentives to further reduce consumption and emissions. Helaba and Frankfurter Sparkasse has switched completely to electricity from renewable sources. This decision, one of the most important measures implemented to reduce the organisation’s environmental impact, has reduced carbon dioxide emissions significantly across the Group.
Helaba’s MAIN TOWER head office building in Frankfurt am Main obtained a Platinum rating – the highest award possible for existing real estate – under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED standards in 2016 having achieved Gold status back in 2011.
The Bank’s company car policy also incorporates climate protection objectives: efficient diesel engines are as a rule to be preferred over petrol engines, high-powered models are prohibited and there are defined limits for carbon dioxide emissions.
Frankfurter Sparkasse operates an environmental management system accredited under the European Union’s EMAS III Eco-Management and Audit Scheme and DIN EN ISO 14001. The environmental management system is regularly audited by independent inspectors. Frankfurter Sparkasse has been a member of the "Wirtschaft pro Klima" initiative since 2014 and has signed up to the initiative’s climate change pledge. Wirtschaft pro Klima aims to highlight and advance German companies’ commitment to tackling the challenges of climate change. Frankfurter Sparkasse supports three velotaxis in Frankfurt am Main to encourage more environmentally-friendly personal transport in the city centre and has installed four charging points for cars and bikes offering free recharges for customers using the Sparkasse head office car park. Around 64 % of staff use the JobTicket employer-provided public transport pass for their commute and business travel. Frankfurter Sparkasse’s "1822 School and nature" project, which has helped over 100,000 children and young people to increase vegetation and planted areas around their school since 1982, delivered plants to 3,600 students at 25 Frankfurt schools once again in 2016. The best creative junior landscape artists among them won a prize for the most attractive school garden.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Transparency and open discussion are two of the fundamental principles that underpin all of Helaba’s activities. The dedicated sustainability section of the Bank’s website at https://nachhaltigkeit.helaba.de provides up-to-date information about all aspects of the social and environmental responsibility of the companies of the Helaba Group.
WIBank operates various programmes to promote home ownership, the construction of social housing for rental, the improvement of student accommodation in Hesse and the adaptation of living space to meet the needs of people affected by disabilities or serious ill health. It administers the regional aircraft noise abatement fund, providing low-interest finance for passive building soundproofing measures to help mitigate noise pollution from Frankfurt am Main airport, and also supports sustainable urban development measures to improve quality of life and social and educational opportunities as a specific response to noise-related disadvantages. WIBank is active in promoting economic development too, for example by providing finance to help small and midsize companies safeguard existing jobs and training positions and create new ones, and is also involved in delivering the State of Hesse’s KIP municipal investment programme. Municipal authorities in the state are able to use the funds provided to invest in various areas including building affordable homes, for example for students, large families and refugees, and expanding all-day care at schools.
GWH manages around 49,000 residential properties, providing a home for an enormous number of people. It works through all kinds of avenues to improve accommodation and quality of life and promote social justice. It makes premises available for social outreach purposes, including homework assistance, youth support schemes and community centres, and supports housing development residents by setting up help and advice offices, for example, and employing welfare officers to respond to relevant contacts. Specially-adapted homes meet the needs of older people and people with disabilities. GWH supports social and religious institutions too and contributes financially to promote social welfare activities both within and beyond its immediate sphere of influence.
Culture and Sport
Helaba regards support for the arts and cultural life as a part of its social mission and a natural element of its own corporate culture. It remains an enthusiastic backer of the performing arts – the DomStufen-Festspiele (festival on the cathedral steps) in Erfurt, the Rheingau Music Festival and the Ruhr Piano Festival have all benefited from its assistance – and also supports art galleries and exhibitions, most notably Frankfurt’s MMK museum of modern art and Städel gallery. Helaba has an art collection of its own too. Collecting activities have focussed since 1996 on international contemporary artists, especially younger talents just breaking through. The Bank regards supporting this group – including through carefully selected acquisitions where appropriate – as an important expression of its corporate citizenship.
The question of artistic merit dominates the collection strategy and the list of artists represented over some 20 years of collecting speaks of both expertise and far-sightedness: the collection includes many artists now well established on the international stage who were still largely unknown when Helaba first acquired their work. The strategy has produced an internationally significant art collection that challenges, opens new perspectives and stimulates active dialogue.
Helaba’s art collection today comprises close to 1,500 works across a range of media and includes not just classic paintings from the modern period, but also convoluted concrete-constructive art from the 1960s and 1970s and examples of American minimal art, which are incorporated in the collection as precursors of modern contemporary art. These older works generate new and unfamiliar perspectives in juxtaposition with more recent works and make it possible to trace certain movements in art over the period concerned. One of the more unusual features of the collection are the numerous large-scale artistic murals, some created on-site in the MAIN TOWER, that exist in direct symbiosis with the surrounding architecture. Only a small proportion of the collection is held in storage and the rest is on display at Helaba Group buildings around the world, enabling Bank employees to experience contemporary art directly. Guided tours ensure that a large proportion of the works are also accessible to the public.
The Helaba Group maintains a prominent profile in the sporting arena as well. It sponsors regional sporting charity Sporthilfe Hessen, is a "Premium Partner" of the Bundesliga football team Eintracht Frankfurt and supports the Oberhof round of the luge World Cup. Its sponsorship of the Düsseldorf marathon and Ironman Night Run in Frankfurt am Main extend Helaba’s backing for sports out of the elite bracket and into the world of mass participation.
Frankfurter Sparkasse has created a financially independent charitable trust to look after its outreach activities: primed with capital of almost € 17.9 m, "Stiftung der Frankfurter Sparkasse" coordinates and finances a wide range of regional cultural, social and educational projects.
Helaba keeps a very close eye on the development of the sustainability ratings. Agencies specialising in sustainability scrutinise companies regularly to determine how they are performing in sustainability matters. Helaba is currently rated by the following agencies:
Helaba strives for continuous improvements in its sustainability ratings and maintains close contacts with all rating agencies to this end. It launched a comprehensive project in 2016 to identify strategic focus areas for sustainability at Helaba and to hone the Bank’s profile further in this sphere.