Mher Ananyan: AraratBank will attract new green funds to Armenia in 2024

23.02.2024 | 09:16 Home / News / Interviews /
Banks.am talked to Mher Ananyan, CEO and Chairman of the Executive Board of AraratBank.

Mr. Ananyan, AraratBank is a partner of the conference on Sustainable Development and ESG: Global Agenda, Local Needs. What are your expectations from the conference, which is scheduled to be held annually?

First of all, we welcome the idea of convening the conference on Sustainable Development and ESG: Global Agenda, Local Needs, and we are happy to be one of the partners of this event. This platform, implemented through a conference, will bring together the public and private sectors, representatives of charitable and international organizations, scientists, researchers, ESG sector representatives, manufacturers and others who seek to revamp and upgrade the culture of their business management.

The key role at the conference is assigned to Co-founder and Managing Director of Do Something company John Dee, who is a leading specialist in the field of sustainable development and environmental protection in Australia. We look forward to learning about his opinion and experience on how to operate business in a more energy efficient and environmentally sound manner. I think the conference will provide an enabling environment for stakeholders to exchange their experiences and ideas concerning sustainable development strategies and share achievements in today’s rapidly changing world.

ESG in Armenia may be seen as a desire rather than a reality. Are you ready to challenge this opinion and do you see real opportunities for a reasonable balance between the international agenda and local needs?

Let me disagree with the opinion that ESG in Armenia is more of a desire than a reality. ESG is not restricted to a selected few companies: this business management approach is becoming an imperative and a requirement for companies truly concerned not merely about their future, but also about the healthy future for our environment. Due to the development and consistent application of an ESG strategy, a company changes its business mindset and forms an ability to create a lasting value, being aware of the existing risks and opportunities. Companies that fail to consider them may face financial risks, losing their investment appeal and damaging their credibility among stakeholders. Responsible companies see ESG processes as values underlying long-term success. Its main challenge is the change of worldview, inevitably accompanied by the re-evaluation of one's own role and goals.

With its sustainable development imperative, ESG will prompt companies to review their strategic goals, methods and procedures of governance, corporate culture and risk management, performance targets and relationships with stakeholders not only in the economic but also in the social and environmental context.

In 2022, AraratBank joined the UN Global Compact international initiative and was the first and only financial institution expressing its willingness to include the UN sustainable development principles in its strategy and act accordingly.

The Ten Principles of the United Nations Global Compact are derived from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Labor Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. We are committed to making the Global Compact and its principles an integral part of our business strategy, culture and day-to-day operations and to participating in joint projects which advance the broader development goals of the United Nations, particularly the Sustainable Development Goals.

The UN Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, provides a universal corporate responsibility framework and sets principles to guide responsible business management. By joining the UN family through the Global Compact - a global movement of more than 12,000 businesses and 3,000 non-business stakeholders across 160 countries - AraratBank undertakes a unique commitment to strengthen the cooperative, mutually supportive environment in Armenia for a more sustainable and inclusive future.

Do you think that, apart from state regulation and control, Armenian banks can set their own standards, for instance, for construction companies or industrial enterprises? In other words, can the banks assume certain "voluntary responsibility”?

ESG is based on the recognition that environmental, social and good governance issues affect a company's ability to create value. The RA banks, as a crucial component of the RA economy, can certainly adopt and pursue a lending and monitoring policy in which the ESG strategy fundamentals will play an integral part and thus set operational standards for entities financed and served by them, including construction companies and industrial enterprises. This policy will also help enterprises move from short-term business approaches to long-term practices, striving for environmentally clean and safe operation while assessing the impact of the company's activities on society and environment.

According to Moody's, in 2024, sustainability bonds for USD 950 billion will be issued worldwide. What are your forecasts for green bonds in Armenia?

I should note that AraratBank has already established a record of collaboration on green bonds with such reputable organizations as Symbiotics Swiss investment company and Proparco, a subsidiary of Agence Française de Développement Group. USD 15.5 million attracted through placement of sustainability bonds by Symbiotics investment company were directed to AraratBank. The funds were used to finance a combination of social and green loans that comply with the set standards. The access to social loans allows micro, small and medium-sized enterprises boost jobs and active business environment in the country, and the provided green loans are aimed at promotion of renewable energy, energy efficiency, eco-buildings and environmentally friendly vehicles. Having adopted the “long-term sustainable growth” practices, AraratBank focuses on financing and investments that foster the creation of a prosperous and sustainable future for society and businesses, giving priority to the financing of projects that will in the long run make cities and communities environmentally safe. The sustainability bonds were listed on the Sustainability Bonds platform under the Luxembourg Green Exchange.

I believe this practice will become a consistent process both for AraratBank and other RA institutions, which are striving for incremental integration into international innovation processes by investing in climate change mitigation directly associated with green funding. New analytical tools and improved access to green finance will directly facilitate the transition to a green economy.

AraratBank has recently announced the attraction of a loan of USD 5 million from the Green for Growth Fund (GGF) social impact investment fund. Can we expect the Bank to attract new green funds to Armenia during 2024?

Institutional investors tend to view ESG as a long-term value and evaluate companies using ESG criteria to avoid potential environmental or social risks. AraratBank started to cooperate with the Green for Growth Fund (GGF) in 2012, signing an agreement on financing energy efficiency investments. The Bank received a large technical assistance aimed at training green loan specialists and green portfolio monitoring specialists, which formed the framework for creating a healthy green loan portfolio. Subsequently, we have implemented a number of other green projects funded by different sources, and the Bank certainly seeks to ensure the continuity of this process through attraction of new green funds. We are currently negotiating on several proposals, and I do believe that the Bank will attract new green funds to Armenia in 2024 to ensure access to green financing for Armenian businesses.

“Sustainable Development and ESG: International Agenda, Local Needs” conference will be held on March 6, 2024, in the “Tigran Mets” hall of the “Armenia Marriott” hotel, from 09:30 to 13:30. For additional information call 010 54 45 31 or send an e-mail to news@mediamax.am.

The program is available here: https://banks.am/en/news/newsfeed/27298
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