I have written a lot on the topic of sustainability in the past, especially during my days within the supply chain industry. Day in and day out, I was fascinated by the ins and outs of the movement of goods across the globe. In fact, the intricate web of interdependencies across supply chain networks still fascinates me. This holds true for my current role as a fraud and financial crime fighter. I am still dealing with intricate interdependencies now in the financial realm, for example, with e-commerce payment transactions. With my supply chain glasses on, I analyzed the merchant’s safe, efficient and sustainable delivery of a good to the online shopper. Now, I am looking at this transaction from a different angle, namely the journey the money takes before finally landing in the merchant account – which also represents a type of supply chain, if you will.
In any event, I initially found it much easier to address the topic of sustainability when I was working within the supply chain industry compared to my newer endeavors in the financial sector. One provocative question I posed in a blog entry back in 2015 was “Do consumers really care?”. Are consumers simply out for the best deals they can find, or does sustainability and corporate social responsibility play a role? One initiative I have been following very closely since 2015 is the Fashion Revolution. They, rightly so in my opinion, concluded that “People Care When They Know”:
Prior to 2019, I had not heard of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set forth by the United Nations. And in my previous work, I tended to address topics more focused on the “traditional” implication of sustainability: namely the ecological impacts of human activity. After learning more about the SDGs, this horizon broadened tremendously. It became much easier to apply the topic of sustainability to the financial sector:
The goals seen above were set forth in 2015, with the aim of achieving them all by 2030. Each one is covered in detail on the UN website and contains a subset of targets. At the end of 2020, the UN released a status report of the first 5 years, and while some progress has been made, overall results have thus far been underwhelming. The goals are framed as an “urgent call to action by all countries…in a global partnership”. This sentiment has clearly not yet been reached. Could there perhaps be a “lack of awareness” when it comes to the 17 SDGs?
Action is Required
Upon its 50th anniversary in 2019, INFORM GmbH recommitted to its core tenet of sustainability using the 17 SDGs as a guide. Throughout 2019, every employee had the opportunity to contribute to conversations regarding the adoption of these goals into the company’s operations. And since May 2020, a dedicated team of over 15 people, consisting of representatives from all job functions and lines of business, has been exploring ways in which INFORM can increase its contribution to the accomplishment of these goals.
One step is, of course, looking inside one’s own four walls. INFORM has contributed to numerous sustainability initiatives with many exciting projects on the horizon. One example is our “Bees@INFORM” program, which so far has brought about the installment of two beehives on our campus in Aachen, Germany. Other initiatives range from the optimization of bike routes and the organization of carpooling to trainings offered on the topic of sustainability that provide great insights on how one can become active in these endeavors. It is certainly important to “walk the walk” before “talking the talk”.
However, perhaps just as importantly, we have been exploring ways in which we can help our customers and prospects accomplish their own sustainability goals and in turn, the overall achievement of the targets set out in the 17 SDGs.
Where can we help others reach their own sustainability goals?
Use cases abound for how we as INFORM can help companies contribute to the accomplishment of the 17 SDGs. As a member of both the financial crime fighting and sustainability teams at INFORM, I set out to find some instances where we could strive toward the SDG goals together with prospects and customers. SDG number 16 stood out to me as a great place to start:
Image Source: globalgoals.org
Looking at some of the specific targets of this goal make it evident how our RiskShield solution, specifically, can help:
16.4 “By 2030, significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets and combat all forms of organized crime.”
16.6 “Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels.”
The movement of illicit funds is something RiskShield is highly efficient at detecting and stopping. Financial institutions, and increasingly, both insurance and telecommunication companies are subject to concentrated efforts by criminals to launder their unlawful profits. While the software will not physically prevent organized criminals from committing their crimes, it certainly has the potential to make it much more difficult for these bad actors to manage their dirty funds.
RiskShield equips financial institutions and other players in the market with improved compliance controls in the fight against financial crime. The software provides managers with a holistic compliance process to best manage risk across all business lines. These increased efforts to fight money laundering and terrorist financing will help increase trust in our institutions. In the end, the movement of money - the supply chain and logistics of money - should be legal, should be fair, and financial crime should be snuffed out. This will be an increased focus of mine in the coming months.
Numerous other use cases exist both within the risk management and fraud prevention space as well as across all other business application areas at INFORM. But there first needs to be some digging, some critical thinking, and some effort placed in flushing out the overall potential. This is a process that is well under way at INFORM. After all, as the UN puts forth in its documentation, to succeed, this needs to be a global partnership. It is time to raise awareness regarding the 17 SDGs and find ways to work together to achieve these goals.
Where do you see potential for financial institutions to contribute to the 17 SDGs?