Estrella Moya is the Head of Marketing for Triodos, a world leader in sustainable banking. In this episode, we look at what it takes to become an ethical bank and the positive community outreach that sustainable values create. We also look at the many financing dilemmas that Triodos faces in its quest for a brighter future.
Triodos aims to change the world for the better, by strengthening the bonds of communities and becoming transparent with its users. Throughout the podcast, Estrella talks us through their financing process: how businesses are excluded, which businesses get the green light, and which ones fall in between. Watch the episode to see our hosts tackle these financing dilemmas. It’s not easy!
Estrella justifies her points by sharing the exclusive Triodos sustainability model, which consists of three core pillars:
- Social (community buildings, medical attention)
- Environmental (farming, renewable energy)
- Cultural (arts, education)
She also urges other banks to follow these pillars, as they can create a stronger foundation for sustainability in your business.
“Please everyone, copy our business model because what we want is to change the way things are!”
And so, here are 4 ways banks can transition their own activities to become more sustainable:
1. Environmental Transition. Banks can promote sustainable agriculture, invest in eco-friendly technologies, and prioritise green lending to create a resilient and regenerative food system.
2. Cultural Transition. By fostering financial literacy and supporting local cultural initiatives, banks can contribute to individual well-being and create inclusive societies.
3. Societal Transition. Banks can address inequalities by providing equal access to financial services, supporting entrepreneurship in underrepresented communities, and offering affordable financial products.
4. Resource and Energy Transition. Through financing renewable energy projects, sustainable infrastructure development, and clean technologies, banks can accelerate the shift to a green economy.
Proactive banks have the power to drive sustainable change. By aligning their initiatives with environmental, cultural, and societal needs, banks can make a lasting positive impact on their communities and create a brighter future for all. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
This article summarises podcast episode 93 “The Sustainable Banking Dilemma” recorded by CX Insider.
Written by Octavian Iotu
Edited by Marcell Debreceni
Full Episode Transcript
Estrella: So if I told you that there is a firm that comes to you and says “hey, the father has just retired, the son is taking on in the firm and he would like to make some changes. He would like to put solar panels just to make all the energy more green”. But when you chat with the business, they use high chemicals and are not very good at etcetera, etcetera. Will you be financing them? Because on one hand you are financing green energy, but on the other hand you are financing a business with a business model that maybe you don’t like. There is never a 100% right answer in our life in sustainability, but one of the things Triodos is pushing very strongly is to create consciousness.
Marcell: Hey everyone, welcome back to the CX Insider Podcast. Today we speak to Estrella, head of marketing for Triodos Bank in Spain. We’ll be exploring what it means to be a sustainable bank, how to achieve such a distinction, and how other banks can grow into forming communities. Enjoy the conversation and if you do, why not subscribe to our YouTube channel for CX Insider’s best content? By the way, this podcast is brought to you by ACF Technologies, the global leaders in Customer Experience Management Solutions. So to get started, thank you very much for coming on today. Would you like to tell us a bit about who you are and what you like to do in your personal life?
Estrella: So hello, everyone. Thank you for having me here. I’m super excited of being able to talk a little bit of the work that we are doing on Triodos Bank. My name is Estrella Moya. I’m the marketing director for Triodos Bank, Spain. I have been working for several banks in Spain from medium size to some of the largest ones. I can say I’m proud now because I found my place, because being able to work for an ethical bank is something we will explore later, but this is something amazing. On my free time, well in Spain I go out a lot. I have many friends and three amazing teenage kids that tell me everything that I do wrong in my life.
Marcell: You mentioned there, you know that you feel proud of your role, that you can work such an ethical bank, which is great. What is it specifically that you are involved with in your work? What kind of things do you do? What motivates you to do that?
Estrella: Okay. So let me give you a little explanation of what ethical banking or banking of values is, with a little example. For an individual like you or me, working with an “ethical bank” like Triodos doesn’t say anything else than with any other bank. I mean, you have your current account, your mortgage, your debit card, your credit card, etcetera. As you know, the banking activity is we take the money from the people that are saving, and we use this money to finance [ethical] companies. This is the key difference. I will ask you a question. Are you aware of what your bank does with your money? What kind of business are they financing? Well, in Triodos we know it.
Marcell: So, yeah, so one thing I wanted to ask about that, which is interesting, is you only support organisations that are, you know, ethical and have sustainable practices and missions and stuff like that. How do you determine that? So what kind of processes do you use to analyze whether a company potentially aligns with your own goals or whether they’re kind of good enough, how does that process go?
Estrella: We have, as I was saying, two processes that is qualitative and one that is quantitative. In the qualitative process, we have specialists that talk to the business, some input data, I mean, we ask some questions, plus we have a list of exclusions. We already know that we are not going to finance anything related to weapons, to intensive farming, things like that. So we already know that, when we talk about the specific business, there are some of them that are very clear, okay, like, I don’t know, a school, a theatre, ecological farming, things like that. And then there are some initiatives that came to us and we can talk a little bit about that later that are called the financing Dilemmas. So I can give you some examples without the answer. And then you can choose and you can give me the answer if it will be in your hands, will you be financing these people or not? But before that, I would like to add one point. One of our principles is transparency. To be able to show that we actually do what we say, we have a map on our web page where we publish all our needs of the projects, companies and organisations that we are financing. If you have a sustainable mindset, you will become a customer of Triodos Bank and then you can choose in that map the sustainable hotel, the green shop you want to buy, or the nice restaurant you want to eat. And you know that all these businesses are like you, part of the Triodos community.
Marcell: Now. Triodos operates with a sustainability model that stands on three core pillars. These are social, environmental and cultural. But how is that division decided and how does it shape the work of the bank?
Estrella: We have a vision and the vision is that we have to finance those business models that they actually help to transform the society into the future that we want. So we have identified these three sectors. Environmental, it includes things like farming, renewable energy and sustainable buildings and constructions. In cultural, we talk things about like culture, arts, education and then on social we have a community buildings, medical attention, things like that. But the key focus is that we have identified like five transitions that we need to make in our society to be able to build this future that our planet needs. The first one is the food transition. We need to change from extractive to a system that is regenerative. And I’m talking about the crops and how we grow them. The second one is the well-being transition, how people need to change the focus on material happiness to a society that values more individual well-being. We have identified also a societal transition that is a society where everyone is included, it doesn’t matter what kind of capabilities you have. We need also to think about resource and energy transition, that i’m going to speak much about them because we are all changing from the brown economy into solar panels and stuff like that. So if you can see, it’s like in Triodos, we have a vision. We have been able to identify some sectors and we have been within those sectors able to identify where we have to push and where we have to help to make those transitions that we need possible.
Marcell: What are some of the, just you know, to start, what are some of the big problems and challenges you face trying to deliver this level of sustainability in banking specifically? I mean, I know you have over 700,000 customers and you want to keep pushing that number up, obviously. What do you think are some of the key things that are difficult in achieving that?
Estrella: Like any other company, we have our revenue very linked to interest rates, that we have a digital competition in society that you have to choose if you want to be a frontrunner in digital and technology or not, and being able to pay all that. Human resources and how we train people to be equally as skilled in sustainability and in the professional field. But we also have, you know, and just to make the podcast a little bit more interesting, one kind of problems that maybe other businesses don’t have, and I was talking a little bit before about them and they are like the financing dilemmas. And this is: we are going to change roles and I’m going to give you some dilemmas and then you have to answer the question.
Marcell: Okay, great. I’m excited. Let’s go.
Estrella: Okay, So imagine that you work in Triodos Bank and you work in the financing department and you have to say if you will be giving a loan to a business or not.
Marcell: Okay, big decision.
Estrella: You need to have like a sustainable mindset. So if I told you that there is a firm that comes to you and says “Hey, the father has just retired, the son is taking on in the firm and he would like to make some changes. He would like to put solar panels just to make all the energy more green.” Will you be financing that?
Marcell: Yep. Sounds great.
Estrella: When you talk with the business, they use high chemicals and are not a very good estate, etcetera, etcetera. Will you be financing them? Because on one hand you are financing green energy, but on the other hand you are financing a business with a business model that maybe you don’t like. And I can give you another dilemma that’s harder.
Marcell: Yeah, that’s an interesting one. It’s kind of like if you do finance it, then you’re supporting a company in their unsustainable practices through a bit of something that is more ethical, that is really intriguing. How do you find that balance? How do you make that decision?
Estrella: Maybe, I’m not saying this is the case, but I will give you the loan only if you present a plan to transform your farm into an ecological farm. And you can always talk with your customer and find a solution. But these kinds of dilemmas are hard.
Marcell: Obviously, businesses have to make hard choices every day, though it shouldn’t be the customers themselves struggling through their interactions with those businesses. That’s where ACF Technologies can save the day because with ACF’s wide range of customer flow solutions from appointment booking to queue management and everything in between, they can provide you all you need to streamline your customer experience like never before. It’s no wonder they’re the industry leaders. Interested? Head over to ACF Technologies and find out more.
Estrella: I have some more. Do you want to listen to another one?
Marcell: Yeah, go for it. Great. Yeah.
Estrella: Okay, imagine that you have a group of schools and they have a school in a very remote place. And the kids live, you know, in small villages all around the school, but 5 to 10km. So they need to buy a school bus. But, you know, they don’t have so much money and the only bus that they can afford is a diesel one.
Marcell: And then they might have to get dropped off by cars and stuff, which is then more emissions.
Estrella: So the lesson here is there is never a 100% right answer in our life in sustainability. But one of the things that Triodos is pushing very strongly is to create consciousness. Make your own decisions, but be conscious that everything that you decide, everything you purchase and every way that you behave has an impact on the planet and in the world. It’s a very easy way to be able to show our customers that what they are doing, that is so simple as banking with us actually matters and we are all building something together.
Antonio: Okay. Well, something that you mentioned and I think that is something that is important is to create a relation, a long term relation with the community. Because I think now with all the technology available for the different companies, the competition is basic. Now, knowing the knowledge of this, base it on how I can establish a long term relation with the customer and with my community. How is Triodos doing on this area with creating a long term relation with the communities?
Estrella: We actually say that Triodos is not a bank but is a movement. Like a few years ago one of our customers wrote me. He was a teacher, electric installations of solar panes and things like that. He asked me if it was all right, if he could take all the students to the building I was working in Triodos bank to see our installation. He didn’t need any guide because actually he was a teacher and he could explain all the technical stuff. So actually I organized it, it went very well. Actually, this is the kind of activity we want to promote. These people are going to help us to change the world. They are going to install all the solar energy. And when they finished, he came to me and said, “Hey, I can do this for the customers for free. Maybe I can come one day per week and just show other people how the solar energy works. I mean, we are a community. We all want to do this. Thank you, Estrella, for this.” Actually, people want to do stuff not actually work, but they are willing to do stuff for the community just to show others. And that shows that this is not a company customer relation or whatever. That it’s more like a 1-to-1 relation like my people who want to build something different.
Antonio: Yeah, most people are concentrating on talking about personalised services for each customer and you are talking about a community. It’s a good vision.
Marcell: I agree Antonio. Triodos’ mission is truly noble for a good cause that needs more attention and with current social trends, it seems their success will only grow as time goes on. But let’s hear from Estrella herself. Where does she see the bank in five years? What changes might arrive?
Estrella: People come to talk to me and say, “Hey, this bank or the other bank is copying you. What do you think about them? Are you mad?” I say, actually, no. That is my purpose. Please everyone, copy our business model because what we want is to change the way things are. So in a few years, you know, I envision more of Triodos. Of course I work here, so my perspective is super good. I think that there is already a movement in society of people starting to build this awareness little by little. If you are able to pay a little bit more for your trainers because of this brand [being more ethical] over the other, or you are able to walk a little bit farther because you like this restaurant and not the other, little by little, that consciousness will come into your day to day banking and you also will choose your bank because it has something else, and not only because they will give you, I don’t know, a TV for opening the account. So this is what I envision in the future.
Marcell: Thanks all for listening. I’ve been Marcell and I hope you had a good time. Let us know what you thought by continuing the conversation with us on LinkedIn at CX Insider Podcast or by commenting on the video below. While you’re down there, why not like, share and subscribe for more of cx Insider’s Best content? I’ll see you again in two weeks. But in the meantime, stay customer centric. And by the way, this podcast is sponsored by the Global Leader in CX Software, ACF Technologies. What is your favourite dessert?
Estrella: Because I don’t like ice cream or chocolate.
Marcell: That’s great. I love fruit. What type of fruit is your favorite?
Estrella: I mean, for me? And it is awful. Taking half of a watermelon with a spoon and watching a film.
Marcell: Oh, like a bowl.
Estrella: Yeah, like a bowl. But you are eating the fruit, in front of the TV.
Marcell: Watermelon is one of my favorites.
Antonio: Well, what is your favorite place for vacation?
Estrella: Actually, I’m leaving tomorrow for Kuala Lumpur.
Marcell: Have you been there before?
Estrella: No, but I have the three kids I was telling you about. I think that part of their education is knowing how other people live. So I have organized, like some sessions for my kids with monks of their age. And I think that that conversation can be super interesting for them.
Marcell: That would be just a completely different world. And if it’s the same age that would be really cool actually, I think it’s a great idea.
Marcell: Do you know of anything that is something that a lot of people do, which is actually quite bad for the environment, but the general population isn’t aware of how bad it is?
Estrella: There is a lot of people that have ten t-shirts and they say, “Hey, i’m going to become sustainable, so I’m going to buy the ten t-shirts from a very sustainable brand.” The reflection here is, do you need ten or do you need three t-shirts? That is what is really sustainable. And don’t throw away the clothes that you already have and buy sustainable ones. Use the ones that you have and when you need a new one think first if you need it and if you need it, buy sustainable. But first, the most sustainable thing is not buying stuff.
Marcell: I think we can all get a bit carried away with the stuff we have. We got a lot of stuff and then there’s just too much. What is your favorite film?
Estrella: Well, my favourite film, I watch all kinds of movies that are sci-fi and I’m walking encyclopaedia. But the last film I watched was Guardians of the Galaxy. The last one.
Marcell: What did you think?
Estrella: I think that it is a different approach to a film because they mixed in the funny parts. Nothing too spicy, nothing too dangerous. It’s fun. And they have values, I mean, like friendships and stuff like that. When emotions are in play in a film, it’s always fun to see it.
Marcell: Yeah. Loved it as well. Thought the themes of friendship and everything you said was great.