In the consumers’ minds, the state-owned Ukrgasbank is already inextricably associated with environmental friendliness and energy efficiency. And its staff has already become real experts in this field – they advise not only on financing but also on how and with whom their customers can start an eco-project. The Bank has even begun to compile its own expert rating of reliable contractors for the construction of large-scale industrial renewable energy facilities. It is not that big a surprise, given that last year, more than half of all projects on renewable energy in Ukraine were implemented with the help of Ukrgasbank. The head of the Bank, Kyrylo Shevchenko, told about how the universal state bank was transformed into the best expert on “green” financing.
What is the reason for strengthening the focus of Ukrgasbank on eco-accreditation? If in 2015 it looked like a bold but not obvious strategy, now the Bank’s eco-lending has become a diver in the business segment development. What is the reason for that?
When it was necessary to understand what markets we would develop, the Bank found itself at the crossroads. We could just go on the beaten track, for example, in the sector of agribusiness lending, but there were a lot of players already, and we did not want to be “a dime a dozen”. Therefore, we decided to look for our niche to become “unique”, and I believe we were not mistaken.
“Green” direction is a completely new and innovative model in the banking sector. Moreover, this vector is more in demand in the context of both world realities and Ukrainian heritage. Since it’s the Ukrainians who in recent years became acutely aware of the shortcomings of the extensive energy industry – the transition from traditional energy to “green” is vital for us.
And the more we delved into the environmental issue, the more we felt the need to solve urgent problems in our country. Unfortunately, Ukraine is among the TOP countries with the highest level of energy consumption in the world. In addition, significant damage to the Ukrainian environment is caused by old enterprises that we inherited from the Soviet times. Therefore, it is not just our mission to popularize “green” loans. We are convinced that alternative energy in modern realities has no alternative!
Indeed, if at the beginning of our “green” way it was a totally new idea for Ukraine, very soon we all realized how relevant and important it was for our country. Now everyone knows that the only eco-bank in Ukraine is Ukrgasbank.
Is this approach applied primarily to business customers or to individuals, too? Are you interested in individuals, do you give them loans?
Of course, we are, and, of course, we do give them loans, all customers are important for us, and we offer a set of products for each segment, including “eco” products. Loans for electric cars are very popular today, so we regularly review our terms. For example, rates on eco-auto now start from 0.01% per annum. In addition, we were the first bank in Ukraine, which introduced a loan program for the installation of turnkey solar stations in people’s backyards. It is nice that the “green” vector immediately resonated with customers. We also offered the market an alterna tive to a plastic card – an EcoCard. It is a unique product for Eastern Europe, made entirely of bio raw materials, which decomposes within two years after the expiration date without causing harm to the environment.
But what is particularly pleasing is that the motive for the transition to “green” energy is not just the desire of Ukrainians to become independent. Now our clients consciously understand the value of their own contribution to the healthy future of the country.
In general, by now, is it profitable to protect nature, to be eco-friendly – what can you say about it as a banker? There is an opinion that it is not so cheap.
I would say that although “environmental friendliness”, at first glance, is somewhat more expensive than “disposable” analogs, here the economic effect of the introduction is delayed in time a little, it will have a much greater outcome in a global sense. As a result, the benefit from the introduction of energy-efficient technologies and environmental projects is exactly in savings.
At the same time, we are sure that it is impossible to bring harmony to the world if you don’t have it at your own home. I’m talking about the support of the eco-friendly trends in our offices. Yes, our small but significant victory is our refusal to use plastic when working with customers. It would seem such a trifle, but we estimate that every year the Bank uses around 420,000 plastic cases for documents. For comparison, this is equivalent to the area of 428 football fields! Next year we plan to introduce much more radical measures in the fight against plastic.
In addition, there are containers for sorting garbage, recycling batteries and plastic cards in our offices, everywhere there is energy-saving lighting, which, by the way, provides us with significant savings, we have abandoned paper document management and introduced an electronic signature. Our goal is to create a truly eco-friendly office that effectively uses resources in its work. And please note that these initiatives are not something supernatural and costly, I believe that everyone can try to implement some of them.
Surely you assess the impact of resource consumption on the economy, the impact of the “greening” of business. In any case, our economy remains resource-intensive and energy-intensive – in which directions will everything develop? Do we have a chance to overcome such a challenge as a possible shortage of resources? What can the financial sector do to help?
It is the financial sector that can help principally – with money. And we can help with our expertise as well. The shortage of resources can be overcome by the development of renewable energy sources and modernization of production. Here, by the way, our technical experts can help. They come to clients, study their production and offer a working solution. We try not only to explain but also to provide a detailed analysis of how much the company will save and earn in the future.
In general, it is a global trend that has long moved from just “fashionable” to “extremely necessary”. Business is finally becoming responsible, as we all see the consequences of our activities in a global sense. In pursuit of a more comfortable human existence, we are gradually making our planet uninhabitable for all life on it. It seems very selfish to me. And the price for our ancestors’ dream about a better life for us is not just high – it’s deadly.
Do we have a way out? After all, it is impossible to stop as well as reverse technological progress. But I believe there is away. The more we strive to make our lives better, the more power we must channel to help our planet cope with the devastating results of our own actions. We have to find a balance between “better” for us and “better” for the environment.
Our goal is to convey the awareness that it is not only possible to abandon aggressive technologies and expensive gas in favor of “green” electricity but also to start making money on it, and this initiative should become a powerful impetus for the development of the modern future, environmental security, and energy independence. The real fight against negative challenges depends on how quickly our society will be able to move from the usual, yet outdated thinking to new, albeit non-standard technologies of development. Everything that has already outlived its usefulness and started to lose in terms of its efficiency, economy and, most importantly, safety, requires changes. And we are working every day to make those changes happen as quickly as possible.