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RBC banker: Water an economic issue

Sunday, December 8, 2013

RBC has spent $2.5 million on the Blue Water Project in T&T, said Lynn Patterson, director of Corporate Responsibility, RBC. The project is part of RBC’s environmental awareness initiative worldwide where they fund projects that raise awareness of the importance of conserving water.



“We have given three significant grants. One of the main ones was on water conservation with communities and schools. In partnership with University of the West Indies and other partners we went into the communities to teach kids water protection. We had a session in Cedros. They learnt about water hygiene, hand washing and other things,” Patterson said. She said of the 600 grants given by the bank for water projects around the world, about 40 per cent are for schools.


“They often say if you want to change an adult’s behaviour, teach the child first. I think we all learn about water in school but forgot about it. There is a way to do it for kids to retain the information sand it is done in a fun way,” Patterson told the Sunday Guardian. She said RBC has seen the impact, not only in T&T but around the world.


“We tell our grant recipients to report back to us on what the impact is. It is a challenge to calculate what the impact is because the grant has been so wide and the metrics of one programme might not be related to another but we actually have done a tally on the number of children affected. We have had great feedback,” she said. Patterson said T&T and other countries need to see water as a valuable resource with a cost attached to it.


“Water is something we take for granted. Our kids do not as we teach them about water conservation. We really forget about it as adults as we are charged for water. There are some folks who want to see their water bill and water use, because in many regions water is not priced appropriately and there is not incentive to save it. For example, in my tax bill it is under ‘other services’ and wrapped under other things hard to tell. We do not do that with electricity as we know what it is,” she said.



Patterson also spoke about water and how it is related to the cost of producing food. “Even though we grow 70 per cent of the food we eat we are taking a look at the cost of growing the highest yield and are we growing the right things in the right places. Even in T&T it is something that must be looked at,” she said. 


Patterson came from Canada to give a lecture on water and climate change at yesterday’s Youth Forum on Climate Change.  She said when the RBC programme started in 2007, they were looking for an environmental cause. 



“Up to that time we had not been doing much in the environment outside responsible lending. This was the time when ex US vice president Al Gore was in the news every day championing the environment. We felt we had to do something related to climate change and we thought water is one of the biggest causes,” she said.


She said water is one of the big issues in the 21st century: “In the Middle East there are interesting collaborations because it is such a big issue. In the US people are battling for water rights between states. We thought water would be interesting, not only because it is an economic issue but for a Canadian bank, Canada has lots of water and we are water rich.We are not in crisis and we have 11 percent of the world's fresh water,” he said.


In 2007 they launch the grant programme of Canadian $50 million for RBC's Blue Water Project in the countries around the world they do have a presence. “This is to support charitable organisations doing water shed protection. It was felt this approach was the fastest way to make a difference. We recognise the water issues for our clients but we are not on the ground. We felt it was necessary to partner with non-profit organisations,” she said.



Corporate Social Responsibility
Patterson advices companies  in T&T to ensure corporate social responsibility (CSR) remains an important part of the way they do business. “Do not be afraid of CSR, it is something that may be new. Take a look at your company and they may find they are already doing things that fall under CSR, if they are good employers, if they serve their clients well. 



“In this bank we make and keep banking information private, that is CSR too. If a company makes sure they are not polluting the water supply of their operations that is CSR too,” she explained. She said all aspects of a company's operations must be looked at to ensure, they are engaging in corporate social responsibility.


“For RBC it is very important. We do not look at CSR as being added on, it really is part of how we do business. We know that we do not pay attention to how we treat our employees in the work place, what our economic impact is, how we treat our clients, how we support our communities through charitable donations and how we run our company with integrity. All of those things are part of the mix. Sometimes people equate CSR with donations but that is just one part of it,” she said.


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