On Wednesday 3 March 2014, five experts on finance and investment converged on stage at Deakin Edge in Melbourne to talk about how banking could help the world become more sustainable.
The 300 guests at the public forum heard the panellists' thoughts of what has to happen to change the face of banking from a purely profit-driven industry to something that looks at providing a more holistic, positive impact on society and the planet.
Early on in the discussion Glen Saunders, Chair of United Nations-supported Principles of Responsible Investment, refuted the suggestion that the sustainable banking movement is just a fad.
"I think his whole idea that 'I ignore my effect on the world' was a fad and a fashion and I think this [sustainable banking] is more about being proper human beings," Glen said.
Tamara Vrooman, CEO of Vancity Credit Union in Canada and a Director of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values, added to Glen's point.
"If it's a trend and a fad then it has a very long history. Vancity was founded in 1946... and the thing that makes us different, the thing that motivates me, is that we've never lost sight of that fact that we [Vancity] exist, banking exists, to create a better society. As a result we've been very successful as a financial institution, we've prospered," Tamara said.
"For me, I think the recent Global Financial Crisis has shown that the banking and a failure of banking has the potential to really cause a lot of disruption. And it's as important a part of a healthy society as an education system or a healthcare system, and as citizens we participate in health and education and the justice system, but we're not as engaged in the banking system as we need to be.
"What the Global Alliance for Banking on Values is about is really bringing the message of banking to the real economy – being clear and open and straight forward about how to get increased participation and really showing that banks exist to serve people."
Paul Gilding, former Global Head of Greenpeace, spoke of what motivated him in the space.
"The thing that strikes me about this conversation is it's really part of that broader idea that we have to transform the global economy. We have to think about replacing the banking sector with a new sector. We are the consumers, we decide who gets rich and who doesn't and that idea more broadly applied means that we can decide what sort of banks we want and how we want them to behave."
Discussing the notion that the sustainable banking sector is a small idea and may never be see mainstream support, Paul said:
"I think there is a sea change happening in attitudes amongst people, amongst government, amongst consumers, that will take a while to get traction, but I think it can take off very quickly and when it does I think we'll see quite a dramatic change in the structure of the economy."
Referring to the change she believes need to happen, Professor Durreen Shahnaz, Founder of Asia Impact Investment Exchange, wants people to focus on: "How do we take the power of doing good to an individual level? It's about not only making the next dollar, but actually the next impact."
Pavan Sukhdev, the CEO of a consulting firm that helps organisations measure their investments in human terms, talked about the need for change from the current model.
"The idea is how do we go from one to the other? And I think we need to go through a lot of change, change in psychology, behaviour, attitudes. And changing your banks is probably amongst those things."
Facilitated by Jon Faine, presenter of Mornings on 774 ABC Melbourne, the forum was also opened by Damien Walsh, Bank Australia's Managing Director.